Campus ministries strives for inclusivity

Marlin Ministries holds worship services, ukulele jams and therapy dog sessions.

As a Methodist-affiliated university, having available experiences for religious expression, learning and community, has been a staple at Virginia Wesleyan University since it was chartered in 1961. A generous donation was given by the Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church, so, consequently, the university was named after John Wesley, the recognized founder of Methodism.

Given its history and religious background, the university has been committed to providing such opportunities to its students via the Student Ministry organization, fondly referred to as Marlin Ministries. Even with its denomination-specific roots though, the on-campus ministry is committed to providing an interdenominational experience with people of all faiths and backgrounds being welcomed and accepted. 

The most clear depiction of such an intermingling can be found in the As One: Music and Message worship service held every Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at the Monumental Chapel on campus. Junior Brooke Underwood, Music and Business double major and the worship director for the As One band for the past two years, talked about what the service is like. 

Starting and ending with the singing of a mixture of both contemporary, hymnal revisions and original songs led by the As One band, the service contains a scripture message given by a student speaker, discussion time and prayer. 

“The goal of As One is to spend time in community with our creator, no matter where we come from or what we have done,” Underwood said. The name “As One” originated from the concept of being in “a community where everyone feels like they are a part of a whole.” 

Her favorite part of the service “is seeing people who never thought they would be the type of person to come to church find a place where they belong,” something that helps fulfill the Student Ministry’s vision statement: “Discovering God. Experiencing God. Sharing God.” 

Underwood asserted that “As One is open to absolutely anyone!” With a broad range of various people coming from “Methodist, Baptist, Non-Denominational and even Jewish backgrounds,” Underwood said. The service and continued growth of the event is dedicated to providing a place for any and all to worship and spend time in community with one another. 

Senior Ryan Abraham talked about how he enjoys the student-led aspect of the worship service. He said, “I think it’s really cool seeing people I know leading worship. It makes it feel more personal.” 

The student-led messages are also a highlight for him. He touched on how the students’ ability to pick what they are speaking about contributes to a more meaningful discussion. “You’re seeing them speak about things they’re passionate about which adds a lot more than just being read like a stereotypical sermon,” Abraham said. 

For those who are looking to get connected with a ministry outside of campus, Virginia Wesleyan has a partnership with the Haygood United Methodist Church, which is located two miles away from university grounds. Church services occur at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings, and students are given the option to be connected into various community events, outreach ministries and volunteer opportunities through this connection if they so choose.  

Student Ministry activities are not limited to service specific events on Sundays though. With the student-led Monday Night Worship service and Women of God and Men’s Group Bible studies, there are many outlets through which students can be religiously involved throughout the week. Marie Porter, the Director of Student Ministries at Virginia Wesleyan University, helps to oversee and facilitate these events. 

One such activity, the Ukulele Jam, happening on Thursday evenings at the Marlin Ministries Lounge in the Batten Center, is a creative and active way to experience the program. Junior Alex Cain described Ukulele Jam as a place where people “kind of just hangout and play music. Anyone who wants to come play music can come, even if you’re really new to it.” 

Occasionally merging with the Songwriter’s Group that happens directly after it, Ukulele Jam is a time where students can come together at the end of the week and express their worship and enjoyment of each other’s company in a musical way. 

With the semester coming to a close, the ministry is looking forward to further strengthening the ties they have with each other. 

“Marlin Ministries is excited about continuing to grow deep spiritual relationships with one another and with God, so that we will be able to encourage and support each other even when we’re away from campus,” Underwood said. 

Upon the return to campus after winter break, the ministry is excited to continue fostering relationships and community and are committed to providing such opportunities up until the break.

By Phoebe Cox