Thoughts from the NCMA Conference

10 Sep

I attended the NCMA conference this summer.  I enjoyed it a lot, actually more than I expected.  I intentionally traveled very lightly to Atlanta.  I didn’t take a computer and though I did have my smart phone, I enjoyed being focused on who and what was around me while at Agnes Scott College.  Sometimes in the past, I think I’ve traveled “heavier”, with more stuff and more things demanding my attention in different directions which looking back might have made it easier to “be someplace else”.  I think I want to try traveling lighter in general this year.

I’m proud to be part the great cloud of campus ministry witnesses involved in the National Campus Ministry Association over the years, some of whom I’ve known and many of whom I’ve only been told.  I’m looking forward to next year’s celebration of 50 years of NCMA.  At the same time, I came home reflecting on my role in mentoring and journeying with those who are just beginning their work in campus ministry.  And while I feel blessed to have been around during the first 50 years, I think I am more interested in what will unfold in the next years.  It’s clear that the winds are changing.

I was captivated by the work being done at Penn State through the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center and the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs.  I’ve been having conversations with folks here in Cedar Falls about what could be possible on our campus.  It’s tempting to copy what they do and implement that model on our campus, but, though it is slower, I am challenged and encouraged to have the conversations and see what we could develop here in Cedar Falls that grow from their work.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard Brian McLaren’s presentation growing from his book “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?”, but it was very helpful and enjoyable to hear his thoughts around Christian Identity in a Multifaith World  in the campus environment.  I’m challenged to analyze what we offer and how we go about ministry not just in light of reaching the students with whom we want to be ministering, but also thinking about how we connect with folks who are at different stages of faith development than where we are.  (I found myself reflecting back on the number of clergy kids who have attended our college but who have not found our campus ministry to be their place.) And I’m reminded that I cannot encourage people to grow in their faith in more depth than I’ve been willing to grow myself.

As always, many of my favorite parts of the NCMA conference were the new connections and friendships and the conversations that took place waiting for the MARTA train, or around the dining table, or at the ballpark or in the airport during the weather delay.  I come away from times like this with all kinds of new ideas and connections and when I get home I want to do them all right away.  Since returning home, I’ve shifted from the “is summer already over” mode and moved into “how can I possibly do everything I want to this year”.  If I’m listening and traveling as lightly as I desire, what I know I need to do is listen and watch and welcome the new students who will be arriving soon along with the returning students who have had experiences they need to process as well as celebrate the students who have moved on to new things and places.  I think this year I want to have many more conversations and unexpectedly delightful encounters and worry less about how much I get done.

Peace be with you in the craziness of the next weeks.


David Glenn-BurnsDavid plays bass trombone in the Cedar Valley Big Band, is past chairperson of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board and has served as the Campus Minister and Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Northern Iowa for 18 years.  After graduating with a  BS in Education from Bowling Green and a MDiv from G-ETS, he has served  UMC congregations in the Iowa Conference since 1985.  Meeting his wife Jaymee in seminary, together they are parents of daughters Allyn and Magee.  Despite growing up in a campus ministry family, both have been involved in the campus ministry/religious life of their respective college and universities.


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