Returning Student E-News
I hope that you are all having a great summer in the places that God has called you! I know from talking to several of you, God has placed you in some situations and communities this summer that have really challenged you and blessed you. Campus has been quiet this summer from student interactions, but has been lively as we gear up for a great year to come.
I wanted to take a moment and re-introduce myself to some of you whom I did not get a chance to meet this spring. My name is Dr. Chris Confer and I arrived at AU in early January and feel very blessed to serve you as your Dean of Students. I was a student here at AU in the late 90's and graduated with a Business Management degree and then went on to the Anderson School of Theology and graduated with a Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Pastoral Care and Counseling. While at AU, I was an RA for 3 years, sang in the Chorale, participated in several intramural sports, and was one of the first graduates from the Fellows Program which was then called Christian Leadership, Understanding, and Exploration (CLUE). In seminary, I was the Graduate Assistant for Campus Ministries as well as an associate pastor at Maple Grove Church of God with Dr. Fred Shively. After seminary, I sensed a very strong call on my life to continue ministering to and with college students which took me to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., where I served in a variety of Student Life roles for the last 11 years. While at JBU I received my Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arkansas. I have found my sense of calling throughout my life working with college students. I love conversations about passions and calling and helping students to really understand who it is that God has created them to be and how He has commissioned them to serve in His greater kingdom. I am so excited to be back at AU and to have the opportunity to give back to the institution that has given so much to me through my formative years.
This fall we in the Department of Student Life are embarking on some new initiatives. One of those is that we have a staff member who will serve full-time as the director of Spiritual Formation. Becca Palmer has been charged with developing a holistic spiritual approach for our students here at AU and providing ways for students to grow in their personal faith as well as provide avenues for students to serve others. One new initiative this year is the introduction of a small group ministry across campus. These groups will be led by returning students, faculty, staff and persons in the community who have the deep desire to foster spiritual growth in current AU students. We have also extended the DC program to include freshmen male floors as well.
Becca will also continue to oversee the DC experience as well as Chapel Worship and all of our Campus Ministries. We believe that spiritual growth does not just come on the inside but rather that there is an outward expression or fruit of our faith that must be put into action. As the apostle James says, faith without works is dead. We hope that as you grow in your personal faith in the time you are here at AU, that you also have many opportunities to enact that faith through experiences in your residence halls as well as in the larger Anderson community and even around the world.
In the same vein of spiritual formation, the campus them this year is “On the Journey You Find Your Home.” The theme was developed by a group of students and staff who spent the spring semester seeking out God’s direction for us this year. Many of the chapel messages and activities that you engage in this year will be centered on this theme. The following is a poetic prose that helps to better illuminate the theme:
A boundless sky
A winding path
A moment to rest along the way.
The road beneath our feet
Stretches beyond our vision.
The night sky, a drawn shade,
Pierced by light from another day
Descending, like Abram’s hope,
born in the midst of despair.
birthed in the midst of pain.
In the journey, we make our home.
An unlikely proposition.
After all, a journey suggests movement. Going somewhere.
A home suggests feet propped up on the living room table.
But home isn’t merely a physical address—
The place we get our pizza delivered
Or wear pajamas in the afternoon
And drink milk straight from the carton.
It’s the place where we belong.
Where we have a seat at the table.
A voice in the conversation.
Some have tasted the fruit of this reality.
Others have only dreamed of its sweetness.
None of us have arrived at its fullness.
In the journey, we make our home.
Through this process of becoming.
Along this way of discovery.
In the company of others.
We find ourselves.
I love the line that our journey is found “In the company of others.” My prayer is that AU would emulate this kind of journey for each of you. As I have been on campus this spring I have heard the phrase often “you do you” and have found that it is a phrase that does not easily settle in my spirit. I firmly believe that Christ has called us to community, and to do community well means that we must be in relationship with one another. Therefore, isolation does not have a place in true community. As we journey together this fall, I hope that you begin to hear a new language about our community and what it is that we value. The Lifestyle Expectations will still be in effect, but several of us this summer have created a new paradigm for these called Raven Affirmations that center on the AU’s core values. As you come back this fall, we want you to be focused on what it means to live into community together. For some of you it means that to be a Raven you have given up some of what you are fully entitled to in order to become part of the community. It also means that to be part of a community you will commit to speaking up when something is wrong with yourself or with others around you. This also means that you will engage in dialogue with others who may not share your points of view on issues but that you are willing to have the conversation to truly learn from each other’s perspectives. There will be much more about these when you arrive this fall!
Finally, I am very excited about the Welcome Weekend that you are all invited back for! This year you can move back on campus on Friday Aug. 28th at 10 a.m. There will also be a FREE Sidewalk Prophets concert that night at 7 p.m. followed by the Meijer Extravaganza. Please make sure that you get your tickets for the concert early. You will just need to contact Reardon Box office and give them your Student ID number. You will also get a free CD of their newest album if you attend which will be released that night. For those of you who may not know, the band Sidewalk Prophets was formed here on our campus in the 4th floor of Smith Hall several years ago. They are a great group of guys and their hearts are centered on the Lord. There are many other GREAT events happening that weekend as well and we are so very excited to see you all back on campus in a few short weeks.
May God richly bless the rest of your summer and may you come back refreshed and excited for the great things that this year will hold!
Dean of Students