Lily’s Faith Journey at the University of Minnesota

 When I came to the University of Minnesota as a freshman in 2015, I was so excited to find a Christian community on campus. I looked at the websites for a bunch of different ministries in the weeks leading up to move-in. I went to practically every opening worship night. I hunted down ministry staff to talk to them. I went to three different Labor Day grill outs. I was so ready.

But after six weeks, I still hadn’t really found any ministry where I felt like I fit in. There’s a couple of reasons for that, but one of the major ones was that I wasn’t raised Christian. By that point, I had only been going to church for about a year. So, I felt out of place when I talked about God differently, I prayed a little too casually, and I had too many skeptical questions. 

I was really lucky that I found the Wesley Foundation about a week before Fall Retreat. I wandered into worship one night and somehow got talked into spending a weekend with a bunch of people I had just met. I could tell right away that Wesley was a place I fit in. Partly because the communion table was draped with a rainbow flag. And partly because the Wesley community was not about being taught in some top-down hierarchy, they encouraged questions and different ideas so that we could learn from each other. In essence, there was no goal for everyone at Wesley to believe the same things. And we didn’t, and we still don’t, and I love it.

I became an officer and for almost three years now I’ve been working to make Wesley as inclusive as possible. I love meeting new freshmen, I love being an advocate for LGBTQ people in the church, and I love learning more about faith, theology, and the Bible from the people around me. And through Wesley, I’ve grown from a lil freshman who mispronounced “Colossians” more than once, into a senior who borrows Lauren’s old seminary textbooks. I’ve grown from a freshman who ran all over campus looking for Christian community, to a senior who works to create it.

Tied into Wesley’s commitment to community and learning from each other is a commitment to a collective vision of ministry. As a freshman, I assumed that ministry is basically being a pastor. Something best left to the professionals. You definitely need a seminary degree and you probably need to be ordained. But through the years I’ve come to realize that the work that students do for each other at Wesley is also ministry. Whether it’s playing the piano at worship or cooking a community dinner or driving friends home late at night, Wesley gives us so many opportunities to serve – and what is ministry but service in the name of God?

In other words, Lauren isn’t the only person doing ministry at Wesley – everybody participates. That community understanding of ministry has stayed and will stay through all the change that’s been happening at Wesley this past year. And everything that has changed, I genuinely think has been positive – I’m looking forward to partnering with Centennial UMC and meeting students all over campus, and I’m really grateful to be a part of the leadership team.

About Lily

Lily is originally from Naperville, Illinois and took a gap year after high school to serve in the City Year program, teaching elementary school children in the south side of Chicago. Lily is on track to graduate in May from the U with majors in psychology & computer science and a minor in Spanish. She is one of two student co-presidents for the Wesley Foundation, and leads the way in planning events, attending board meetings, coordinating outreach to new students, assisting the treasurer, and generally making sure Wesley runs smoothly. Last year Lily attended 3 different discernment events where she explored her sense of call to Christian leadership. 

lauren rheingans