By Brant Mills

The atmosphere this weekend at Lakeview was charged with vibrant worship and fervent prayer, punctuated by insightful breakout sessions and heartfelt discussions. Student leaders stepped up to share their ‘God moments’, where they witnessed the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Welcome to All Campus, an annual event where United Methodist campus ministries join together with other Wesley Foundations at different schools across the Texas Annual Conference. This year’s event was attended by over 90 students and campus pastors representing Lamar, Prairie View A&M, Sam Houston State University, Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M, Tyler Junior College, and The University of Houston. Leaders from different schools take turns hosting, and this year’s event was organized by Rev. Denise Caulfield, campus pastor at the University of Houston and associate pastor at Riverside UMC, and Rev. Kyle Tremblay, campus pastor at Lamar.

Rev. Denise Caulfield, reflecting on the event, emphasized its core purpose: to provide a nurturing space for students to connect with each other and delve into meaningful conversations about faith and spirituality. Caulfield stressed the significance of community-building and fostering relationships among participants.

“Campus ministries come together here so students have a safe place to get away,” Caulfield noted, adding that they spend time learning about God and about themselves.

Breakout sessions were offered by different campus pastors around various topics where students could talk about some of their own needs and challenges. Here students discussed topics relevant to their lives, guided by pastors who aim to understand their needs and concerns. The focus is on creating a supportive environment where students can share, learn, and grow spiritually. While the event aims to be enjoyable, the primary emphasis is on spiritual growth and building connections with others.

“Having conversations with persons you’re not accustomed to being around, you’re hearing the voice of different students from other perspectives than our own,” Caulfield continued. She said these events help students connect more closely with one another, but also spend time getting to know their campus ministers better and often leave knowing how much we care about them.

Rev. Kyle Tremblay agreed that the retreat not only “offers students a reprieve from the semester’s chaos, but also offers a space where they can exchange broader insights and experiences.”

“It is important for us to get out of the way and that students lead prayers and offer God moments from their own experiences.” He added that worship was led by bands from different campuses, and there was an intentional effort to introduce alternative ways to connect spiritually and broaden students’ horizons. “Prayer, songs, and worship aren’t the only way we hear God… He shows up in our conversations and people sitting around telling a story.”

Bishop Cynthia Fierro addressed the students during two worship services. She offered a message of hope and affirmed, “You aren’t the future of the church, your time is now!… You have this wide-open possibility and our world is going to be better because you’re in it.”

Bishop Harvey then asked directly: “What are your dreams? What do you want me to tell the church?” Students around the room began standing, one-by-one, and spoke of their hopes for their church.

“It is clear they want to be involved and engaged, striving for more participation. Many expressed wanting to feel welcome. Others said they wanted to connect more across generations and learn from one another. Ultimately, they want for themselves and others to be included and to be able to worship in ways that give them the space to be accepted as they are. These young United Methodists are passionate and caring, and I’m grateful to be in communion together.”