United Campus Ministry-University of Maryland: A beacon of hope for young adults during critical years
“I’m so sad that commencement is cancelled, and we are remote for the rest of the semester,” was a text message Chaplain Holly Ulmer received in March from one of United Campus Ministry’s graduating seniors. Loss, and for some despair, came unexpectedly for young people at the University of Maryland. College life as they knew it changed overnight with COVID-19.
Studies showed even before the pandemic that engagement, or community is vital for students’ overall academic success and retention during the college years.
The 2020 spring semester was a difficult adjustment period at University of Maryland for students, faculty and staff adapting to an exclusive on-line learning environment.
- United Campus Ministry (UCM) helped students stay spiritually grounded and maintain a sense of community and normalcy during COVID-19 by quickly moving our regular in person programs on-line using Zoom. A student shared, “During this time of isolation, one thing I have missed is a schedule in my life. Having to balance school and home life without any kind of structure was very difficult at first. . UCM’s L3 program gave me back that structure in my schedule. . .the L3 community has been really helpful in maintaining my social connections to College Park and my spirituality.”
- Through virtual Protestant worship, spiritual practices and discussions UCM helped students explore: What does it mean to have faith, cultivate spiritual resilience, and live out our callings as disciples of Christ at this time? “Being a part of UCM’s L3 has led me to find calm during this time of chaos. “ UMD student
Before the second pandemic of racial injustice was internationally recognized through the horrific death of George Floyd, UCM L3 Student Interns already had been focusing on Race and Religion.
- Interns Jennifer and Samantha created a critical space for students to discuss the intersectionality of faith with the impact of COVID-19 on the African American Community, and the rise of Xenophobia.
New Seminarian Internship: In 2020-2021 UCM will expand our student outreach and support a young adult in training for the ministry with Seminarian Intern, Rachel. UCM is officially a Practice in Ministry and Mission site for Wesley Theological Seminary.
Mental Health issues continue to loom large, especially during COVID-19. In a recent national CDC study 1 in 4 young adults age 18-24 have considered suicide during the summer months.
- Critical virtual pastoral care and listening support for students dealing with uncertainty and trauma from the twin pandemics, is provided by APC Board Certified Chaplain Holly.
Major student virtual programs and ministry services:
- L3 Student Internships, Jennifer and Samantha (Part of UCM’s Listen, Learn, Lead Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation Initiative, supported by Lilly Endowment Inc.)
- Weekly student led meetings, Wednesdays – L3: Power of Purpose, Sundays – Evening L3 Worship
- Interfaith Prayers for a New Semester, with UMD Chaplaincies https://www.facebook.com/MemorialChapel52/videos/1734974450001290
- 04/10 Ecumenical Stations of the Cross – Good Friday Zoom On-line Observance with UMD Christian Chaplaincies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atmSXB0EEwY&feature=youtu.be
- Maundy Thursday and Easter observances – connected students to live worship links from partner congregations.
- 5/08 Spirituality and Stress Management program for Graduate Students, co-led with Alannah, who attends Berwyn Presbyterian Church
UCM’s leadership on campus and in the College Park Community:
- Chaplain support of foster care and homeless students through UMD’s Fostering Terp Success program.
- Student and Chaplain regular participation in Black Faculty Staff/Nyumburu Town Hall Meetings and #UMDSolidarity events focused on racial injustice and efforts to end structural racism.
- 6/23 College Park Faith Communities Interfaith Prayer Chain and Virtual Vigil: Black Lives Matter
- UMD Chaplaincies Statement on Racial Justice and Call to Action initiated and drafted by Chaplain Holly
- Maryland Today article“Faith Backed by Wi-Fi” https://today.umd.edu/articles/faith-backed-wi-fi-43987056-1ed9-4d36-a4e4-e93fea553722 “Faith ultimately helps people make sense of life. . .Even though we’re all separated right now, we’re not alone. . . What I want to share with young people is don’t lose hope that you won’t still be able to live out your dreams or whoever you’re called to be,” Ulmer said. “The future is still there.” Chaplain Holly