On the Approaching Election
Rev. Evan Young, Executive Director

In this election season, there’s something I want to make sure to say to you.

Voting is highly recommended. 

Not because it’s the be-all and end-all of participatory democracy, not because it’s some panacea that holds out the promise of curing all our nation’s ills. I’m well aware of the significant flaws in our democratic process, as currently practiced. Well aware of the interests it weights too heavily, well aware of the interests it excludes from the conversation, well aware of the corrosive influence of money and its erosion of the power of our representative democracy to . . . well, represent.

I still highly recommend that you vote. Because it’s a gateway activity to the kind of engagement and activism for social justice out of which real change can emerge. Take the time to become educated about the choices on offer in this election season–both candidates and issues. Let your research stimulate questions and lead you into reflection on the world we have, the world you want to see, and what it’s worth to you to take action to move us in the direction of your vision. Let your reflection lead you into action, collaboration, and deeper, more interdependent relationship with people who share your vision (or who embrace a vision you had never imagined before that fills you with hope for the future). 

Voting is the low bar, the entry point, the first step on the path toward engaged, informed, contributing citizenship in our community, our nation, the world. So do it. And be advised–since our current leaders are invested in limiting access to the means of participation (i.e., voting) particularly in strongly liberal/progressive areas (like Athens), you should take advantage of the opportunity to cast your vote early (for days, times, and locations click here). Avoid long lines and make sure your vote is cast, recorded, and counted. And then . . . get to work.

Better Together’s Multicultural History Tour

Hello, all! Join us at the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio for Better Together’s Multicultural History Tour on October 20th from 12 PM-5:30 PM! We will be learning about the center’s work in documenting the history of multicultural and multiracial communities in Southeast Ohio while sprucing up and organizing the center’s space, collections, and grounds.

The Multicultural History Tour serves as the first Better Together service day of the 2018-2019 school year. After a successful eighth annual 9/11 Interfaith Peace Walk, UCM interns Samantha Houtchens and Saraya Abner look forward to introducing new programming during the Better Together campaign that engages students in educational, service, and community-building work to build relationships across faith divides, celebrate all faith and philosophical worldviews, and express common values.

If you want to take a break from that Homecoming football game to learn more about the history of people and communities of color in Southeast Ohio, or if you are interested in becoming involved with the Better Together campaign, please reach out to samantha.houtchens@gmail.com or sa884915@ohio.edu. Transportation and a light snack will be provided for the tour, but volunteers are being accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis, so RSVP soon!

Melissa Wales, Executive Director, to Leave UCM

After eighteen years at United Campus Ministry, and thirteen years as its Executive Director, Melissa Wales is leaving the organization at the end of September to assume the new position of Chief Operating Officer of Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville.

“It’s been a wonderful experience serving this organization and this community,” Wales said, “and UCM will always be very dear to my heart. I’m excited to be able to pursue this new opportunity, and happy that I’ll still be around and able to support UCM in other ways.”

Wales joined the UCM staff in 1999 as Program Coordinator. She became Interim Director upon Rev. Jan Griesinger’s retirement in 2003, and became Executive Director in 2005.

UCM is inviting everyone to a thank-you and farewell celebration for Wales on Wednesday, September 20, as part of the “Pints with a Purpose” fundraising event being hosted by Devil’s Kettle Brewing on Columbus Road in Athens. The fundraiser runs from 4 to 9pm; the celebration will be from 6 to 8pm.

Rev. Evan Young, UCM’s Campus Minister, will assume the role of Executive Director on October 1. UCM is opening a search for an Assistant Director and plans are to fill that position by November 1.

“Melissa is not someone we’re ever going to be able to replace,” said Young. “I’m excited for her at this new opportunity, and I’m confident that UCM will be able to adapt and move forward with our vital interfaith and social justice work. It’s a little daunting, of course, but I know we’ll have some stellar applicants for the new position and I’m looking forward to UCM’s next chapter.”

For information about the Assistant Director position and the application process, contact Jennifer Kelly, UCM’s Office Manager, at Jennifer@ucmathens.org.

Assistant Director Position Announcement

United Campus Ministry (UCM), an ecumenical and interfaith ministry serving the Ohio University and Athens communities, is seeking an energetic, committed, justice-seeking individual to fill the newly configured position of Assistant Director.

UCM is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage the Ohio University and Athens communities in spiritual growth, work for social justice, and community service guided by socially progressive and interfaith values.

The duties of the Assistant Director will include:
• Assisting Executive Director with fundraising and donor development, community & campus networking, program development, and overseeing/assisting with events
• Primary responsibility for operation of our two weekly free meal programs
• Managing building & rentals
• PR and publications
• Managing UCM’s website

Qualifications (required):
Bachelor’s degree
Some experience working in the nonprofit sector
Experience supervising paid employees and/or volunteers
Excellent written and oral communications skills
Some availability for evening and weekend work
Patience, flexibility, and a sense of humor

Some experience in fundraising and development
Some theological education
A history of involvement in social justice and activism work

Expected salary: $25,000 to $30,000

Applications accepted until October 3. Seeking a start date of November 1. To apply, send a resume, cover letter, and contact information for two references to Jennifer Kelly at Jennifer@ucmathens.org.
Charlottesville, A Reflection
by Campus Minister Rev. Evan Young

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia have been front and center in our thoughts. As we prepare for the return of students to OU’s campus, we’re thinking, “Charlottesville is a college town. Like Athens.” And wondering when what happened there will come here—and what we’re going to do about it.

White supremacists are marching and rallying openly in the streets of our nation. In the week since Charlottesville, they’ve marched and rallied in several other cities. They’re advocating policies and practices that give preference to white people and treat nonwhite people (and immigrants, and LGBTQ+ folks, and non-Christians, and women) as “less than.” They’re openly threatening violence—not just isolated violent acts, but a mass campaign of violence—to promote their vision and to force its adoption as policy.

Yet more disturbing is the extent to which they have gained the ear, the sympathy, and the support of key political and government leaders—from the President to members of his administration to leaders of his political party, both within and beyond the legislative and executive branches of government. President Trump’s failure to condemn the words and actions of the individuals and groups who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, who marched through those streets chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!,” is a stain upon our collective identity, integrity, history, and community. The false equivalency he has drawn between the white supremacist demonstrators and those who gathered to protest the message of hatred, bigotry, and oppression is an insult to our collective intelligence. And the silence—or overt and enthusiastic agreement—of his supporters in the face of this insult is an embarrassment to us all.

This is not a political issue. It’s a moral issue. It goes to the heart of our faith commitments to affirm and promote freedom, justice, and community for all. We have found that in order to be true to our faith (our faiths, really, since we have many traditions represented on our staff, on our Board of Directors, and among our students, supporters, and donors), we must speak to this. And we must be unequivocal. We stand against those who believe that the right to rule this country must be reserved for “white” people. We stand with those who seek equal rights, opportunity, and protection for all people, whatever their race or nationality or immigration status or sexual orientation or gender identity. We recognize the painful and problematic presence of racism and white supremacy in our past and our present, and we are committed to educating and equipping ourselves and our communities to right those wrongs. If this sounds like you, or like what you want to be and to do in this town and this world, we stand with you. We want you to know that you’re not alone in this struggle, and we want to invite you to reach out to us and to each other for encouragement, for support, for challenge or a listening ear. We’re going to need each other.

Because the students are coming back. And they’re talking about this. They’re hurting, maybe afraid that Charlottesville is coming to our college town, in one form or another. They’re going to need all of us—our presence, our heart, our witness, our dedication, our faith. And we’ll need to be prepared, because Charlottesville IS coming to our town, one way or another. Our prayer and intention is that UCM will be ready with a faithful response—our campus and community need that from us. And we need you. Because we’re better, stronger, and wiser together.

18 N. College St.

Convenient up-town location just off Court Street and a block and a half from Ohio University. Beautiful hardwood floors and built in shelving. And the best office neighbors. AND your rent goes to support the work and mission of UCM!

Approximately 13ft x 14ft on the 2nd floor in the United Campus Ministry building. Ideal for a non-profit organizations, professional office or research/writing. Additional meeting space, kitchen and dining/event room available for free use. Includes WIFI and all utilities except land line. Call 740-593-7301 or email jennifer@ucmathens.org NOW to scheduling a visit to check it out!

We’re excited to be sending four OU students and Campus Minister Evan Young to the Interfaith Youth Core Leadership Institute in Chicago August 11 – 13, 2017! 

Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) equip undergraduate students and educators with the skills to engage diverse faiths and worldviews to build the interfaith movement on their college campuses.

At the ILI:
  • Undergraduate students train to be interfaith leaders who build relationships across identities, tell powerful stories to bridge divides, and learn about ways to mobilize their campuses.
  • Educators (campus professional staff, faculty, and graduate students) share best practices about how to best support student leaders, advance interfaith cooperation strategically across campus, and network with other educators.
  • All participants get a chance to build relationships, network, and share best practices with other people from across the country who are passionate about interfaith work.

 With such dynamic and timely sessions on topics including “Engaging Religious Difference” and “Navigating Challenges of Interfaith Work”,  they’re sure to return with exciting ideas to implement through Better Together at Ohio University this fall. 

Some of our funding for travel expenses fell through so we’re hoping to raise $2500 to cover the cost. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of any amount at our You Caring fundraising campaign or through the donate button on the UCM webpage. 

The arrest of more than 70 students and others last Wednesday (February 1, 2017), at a peaceful protest and sit-in at Ohio University’s Baker Center, has brought home to Athens and Ohio University a deeply troubling trend in our national dialogue around race, religion, justice, and civil rights. While there may be differing opinions as to the extent of the “disruption” created by the protesters (for instance, those attending an event in the Front Room that evening might have experienced the large protest just outside differently from those who witnessed part of the protest in person or via streaming video), there is no “alternative” to the fact that in a situation that was escalated by the presence and action of a large number of local law enforcement personnel as well as a few counter-protesters, no person or persons emerged to play the role of a mediating presence that might have been able to de-escalate the situation.
As a campus minister who serves the Ohio University and Athens communities, I wish with all my heart that I had been there. Had I not been fully engaged elsewhere in another part of my role, I would have been there. Not because I am uniquely qualified to serve as a mediating presence—there are many in this community who could do that better, and some of them hold positions of much greater power and influence that might have been of help in defusing the situation. No, I wish I had been there because part of what we do here is to “walk toward trouble.” And that’s the discouraging trend we see—the dwindling willingness of people who should know better to do the same: to show up and engage and to help mediate tense and potentially conflictual situations. We can do better than this.

If the last couple of weeks are any indication, the coming weeks and months are likely to offer many more opportunities to “walk toward trouble.” I hope, intend, and expect to rise to those occasions. For the sake of the students and community members who will be continuing to stand up and speak out for justice and inclusion in the face of rising fear, mistrust, and bias, I hope we all do. I would hate for Ohio University to become a place where principled and public expressions of dissent draw to them not compassionate concern and engagement, but silent acquiescence to heavy-handed suppression. If you agree, perhaps we can find ways to work on this together.
Email Evan at evan@ucmathens.org
Ohio University students Ansam Al Harthy and Aspen Wilson, and UCM Director Melissa Wales attended the Interfaith Youth Core Leadership Institute in Atlanta on January 27. 
We appreciate the support of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program at OU.
Better Together at OU meets weekly, Thursdays at 10:30am at UCM. For information on getting involved, email bettertogetherou@gmail.com


I have spent much of today making the rounds and checking in with people on my campus I thought might be reeling from the results of the election, and from the responses to those results that compound the hurt they experienced during this long and bitter campaign season. And while I hoped I might be of some help to people who are hurting, I find that the act of reaching out and connecting has been balm for my own bruised soul. I’m glad for the respite from social media, even as I am mindful that this virtual space too is my mission field. So I’ve made my way back here with some thoughts and words that had until now been hard for me to find.

To all my women friends, and my LGBTQ friends, and my black and brown friends, and my immigrant and international friends, and my friends from various faith backgrounds (including Christians) or from no faith—I know many of you are hurting right now. I know that many of you experienced this result as a grievous and wounding attack on your very persons. For you, I know, this decision goes way beyond politics and policy and law and government—goes directly and painfully to whether there is a place for you at all in the new nation we all woke up to. And I hurt because you’re hurting.

Thanks to my walkabout earlier today, though, I know more than that. I know that you are amazing in your beauty, power, resilience, and dedication to the well-being of each other and of our community as a whole. I know that however much you might be reeling from what’s happened, you are absolutely and emphatically there for each other—and for me. I’m honored and awed by the privilege of being in ministry with you and to you and on your behalf. And I’m pledging to you right now that I will never stop standing with you and fighting for you and working to bring about the vision of beloved community we share. 

At United Campus Ministry, where I am called to serve, we have always held ourselves accountable to the scriptural ideal that the justness of our community is measured by how we treat the widow and the orphan and the stranger, how we treat those on our margins. We have always dedicated our heart and soul and mind and strength to loving our neighbors—all of our neighbors—as ourselves. We have always concerned ourselves with speaking truth to power and with bringing the voices of those whose voices have been disregarded to the ears and the hearts of those who hold and wield that power. These things we have always done are who we are, and there’s no way we’re going to stop now. Because you—all of you—deserve nothing less.