St Lucia Uniting Church minster Rev Peter Lockhart speaks with Ashley Thompson about the Uniting Church’s place in the crowded ministry of university chaplaincy.
A mere five minute drive from the University of Queensland’s main campus, St Lucia Uniting Church is perfectly situated to minister to nearly 1200 young adults residing in Uniting Church–affiliated colleges: Emmanuel, Grace, Kings, Cromwell and Raymont Residential College.
Yet St Lucia must constantly review their methods as they endeavour to find a niche amidst the evangelical Christian groups currently dominating the Christian student clubs.
“What strikes me with students is they’ll go where their friends go, so it’s about belonging and community,” says Rev Peter Lockhart.
“But one of the issues that creates is it ghettoises young people. So ‘I’m only going to associate with other young people who look like me, sound like me and like the same kind of music as me’.”
As a university chaplain, Peter encourages young people to talk to people outside their age group as he believes we live in an ageist society and even talking about “millennials”, “gen X” and “baby boomers” continues to reaffirm that we are divided and don’t belong together.
“We’re not just a congregation here for young people; we’re here for the people of God.”
Over the past three years, Peter has trialled a range of different approaches that aim to connect students back to a local congregation. His activities include running study groups, mentoring senior residential assistants and networking with Toowong and Indooroopilly Uniting Church under the university chaplaincy movement Active Faith, launched in February this year.
Offering an alternative voice, Peter has made lasting connections with ex-Cromwell resident, Kate Brazier and international masters student Lwanda Kahongo from Zambia.
“I really enjoyed the Bible studies because it let me explore a bit further—I’m from a fairly conservative church but I love the different points of view and I just think that helps me grow in my relationship with God,” says Kate.
“Not being afraid to question him [God] I think is important because if you just go along and accept everything you hear you’re not going to have a solid faith.”
Conversely, Lwanda has found a home at St Lucia feeling loved by those who have gone out of their way to give her lifts to church events, welcome her family and provide low-cost clothing options through the congregation op shop; demonstrating the power of outreach connected to a local congregation.
Sunday 31 May is Chaplaincy Sunday. For more information about Active Faith visit facebook.com/activefaithuca