Ministry in the Merger

By Ricky Mast

Religion is a large influence on many people’s decision-making in their daily lives and can be especially important when deciding what college to attend. With the University of Findlay and Bluffton University merger, two different religious beliefs will now be rooted in a single university.

UF’s religious beliefs are rooted in the Church of God since its creation in 1882, whereas Bluffton University was established as a Mennonite college in 1899. While both of these are denominations of Christianity they have distinct histories, beliefs, and practices, these Universities must now work together.

While both universities’ religious beliefs may not align one-to-one, this has not stopped the enthusiasm from Bluffton’s campus pastor Chalsi Campbell.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate and think through ideas with other campus pastors doing similar work.” said Campbell. “It is exciting to have new conversation partners and fresh ideas.”

This enthusiasm can also be seen from the University of Findlay’s campus pastor Matthew Ginter.

“The prospect of merging with an institute of higher learning with a different denominational affiliation raises lots of fascinating questions in my mind…but none of them scary or unsettling.” said Ginter. “We are greatly indebted to the CGGC (Churches of God, General Conference) and look forward to a long and fruitful future as their ministry representatives here on-campus.”

During this time, there are many questions about how each university will keep its unique identity with sports, history, and religion.

“I do not see the merger hindering our ability to preserve our distinctive religious identity and traditions because of our commitment to community building.” said Campbell. “In addition, there will be a Transition Team specifically for Faith and Culture so both campuses can work towards preserving our identity while learning about the other.”

With both universities stemming from different denominations of Christianity, there have also been several questions about how students of each university will welcome students of each faith.

Bluffton campus ministry life includes chapel services each Thursday at 11 a.m. in Yoder Recital Hall. A worship band made up of students leads the chapel services and other worship events. The Bluffton website includes a list of community churches for students to get involved with along with different fellowship and service groups, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bible studies and Spiritual Life Weeks. Those weeks are described on the website as one week each semester set aside for a variety of events such as guest speakers and times of worship.

“Everyone is always welcome to participate in the ministry gatherings hosted by the Campus Ministry department here!” said Ginter. “We recognize that individuals come from other faith backgrounds, and to those we extend the same ‘love of neighbor’ that we would expect extended anywhere else, welcoming them to participate—if they so choose—and ask questions, foster dialogue, share their own beliefs and opinions.”

At Findlay, campus ministries hosts a worship service called “Revive” on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. in Winebrenner which is student-lead. Students also make up the worship band for this service. There are a number of bible study groups on campus including COED on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Follow First, a bible study for first year students on Sunday events, as well as men’s and women’s groups, the Christian Veterinary Fellowship, and Catholic Student fellowship, just to name a few.