LAKELAND – The Florida Conference plans to revive its Wesley Foundation ministry at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, starting with a part-time director on campus this fall and a goal of hiring a full-time director by the fall of 2016.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, plans include tying South Florida campus ministries at Florida International University and the University of Miami closer together to serve students at those schools and other campuses in the Miami area. The conference also is exploring the possibility of starting a campus ministry that would serve Florida Atlantic and Nova Southeastern universities.
The plans, approved late last month by the conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (BHECM), are intended to address the need to cultivate young adult disciples on campuses that are ripe for ministry as well as the challenges of multiple ministries seeking local church support in the same geographical area, said Rev. David Fuquay, Higher Education and Campus Ministry director for the Florida Conference.
The decision to hire a part-time campus ministry director at FAMU is in line with recommendations of Dr. Latricia Scriven, a visiting math professor at the historically African-American school and Gammon Theological Seminary graduate who plans to seek United Methodist ordination, Fuquay said.
Scriven recently completed an assessment of FAMU’s campus ministry potential, a step that is required by the United Methodist Book of Discipline for reviving such efforts.
The Florida Conference closed its FAMU campus ministry at the end of 2011, saying fewer than 10 students were involved, even after intensive efforts to overhaul the ministry model. The FAMU Wesley House was condemned and torn down for liability and insurance reasons, Fuquay recalled.
“The building was indicative of the ministry at that point,” he said. “We’ve learned from the struggles we had before and (want to) have solutions for those from Day One.”
The current plan calls for a part-time director to start working with students this fall to develop the mission, vision and goals for the ministry. Fuquay said vocational discernment will be a focal point. Scriven already has identified at least 10 students – some United Methodist, some not – who are interested. She also is exploring options for ministry space on campus.
“Students said, 'We want any kind of campus ministry,’” Fuquay said. “There’s really nothing on campus right now.”
The part-time director will recruit students, community members, faculty, staff members and clergy to serve on an advisory council, which will also provide a pool of potential FAMU Wesley board members.
Like campus ministries in South Florida, the FAMU Wesley will be drawing on the same local church and community network for support as nearby Florida State University’s Wesley Foundation. Fuquay said he plans to meet with ministry and North West District leaders to talk about solutions to that challenge.
“We need to cultivate and raise up strong African-American leaders for the conference, both lay and clergy,” he said. “FAMU takes the raising up of black leaders very seriously as an institution, so Wesley needs to share in that.”
At the same time, a new board will be created to oversee both the campus ministries at Florida International (FIU) and Miami (UM) universities, where each ministry previously had its own board. By coincidence, the campus ministers at those schools – Rev. Beth Bostrom at the University of Miami and Rev. Paul Massingill, pastor for FIU and Miami-Dade College – both have notified the conference of plans to pursue other opportunities.
Fuquay said the board already had launched a search for the UM Wesley director when FIU’s director announced plans to leave. Discussions from the past had already identified the challenge of two campus ministries in Miami recruiting board members and volunteers and raising funds from local churches in the area, he said.
With both positions vacant, it seemed like the ideal time to restructure the Wesley Foundation leadership to address that challenge, Fuquay said.
As a result, Rev. Peter Matthews from Cincinnati will be executive director of a Wesley pastoral team for all three Miami campuses. He will be based at the University of Miami and have primary duties there. He will be assisted by Rev. Gary Marcelin, a Florida Conference pastor who has been involved in a young adult church plant in the area. Marcelin will have primary responsibility for the FIU and Miami-Dade campuses, but both pastors will work together to enhance the Wesley presence at all three schools, Fuquay said.
Starting July 1, one board will oversee campus ministries in the greater Miami area, he said.
Fuquay said he expects the team of Matthews and Marcelin to work well for the schools, each of which is different from the others. Matthews, who comes from an African Methodist Episcopal background, has been serving as Wesley Foundation pastor at the University of Cincinnati. Marcelin has a Haitian heritage, Fuquay noted.
“They’re both very entrepreneurial,” he said.
Wesley students at the three campuses have responded enthusiastically to the plan, Fuquay said.
“The students are excited about the possibility of more interaction,” he said, noting that some already are talking about joint mission trips together.
The campus ministry board also took steps to address $560,000 in maintenance and repair needs at campus ministries across the conference, not including FSU Wesley, where buildings are in need of replacement. BHECM will take out a 20-year loan from the Florida United Methodist Foundation to cover the expenses and also establish a Maintenance Reserve Fund for each campus ministry property to help pay for future replacement of roofs, air conditioning, flooring and other major aspects of the buildings.
-- Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.