They confront tasks as mundane as placing ads and as lofty as negotiating the differences between spiritual paths.
Cooperative Campus Ministries is a group of seven religious organizations that coordinate community events and keep their fingers on the pulse of the University community.
The challenges the group sees are many. “We’re here to eradicate violence, be that gay bashing or sexual harassment,” said Fintan Moore, a campus minister at the Newman Center, a campus Catholic student center. “We’re here to foster fair play.”
Last spring the group sponsored “At the Table,” a series of events directed towards combating homophobia. They are also planning a day at the end of November in which people will fast for thirty hours to raise money for hunger organizations.
Sometimes the group addresses less weighty topics, like the groups’ advertising or just keeping up-to-date on what other groups are doing, Moore said.
“It’s not always philosophical or theological,” Moore said. “It’s often very practical.”
The group also gives religious leaders the chance to support each other, said Pastor Nadean Bishop of the University Baptist Church.
“We have theological discussions and the camaraderie of people in the same kind of work,” Bishop said. “We might get lonely otherwise.”
About once a month the group invites a University community member to speak at their meeting, said Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, associate director of Hillel, a campus Jewish student group.
“We can make sure that (the guest speakers) understand we’re working with a very important aspect of students’ lives and they can refer to us and we can likewise refer to them,” Stiefel said.
Group members talk with people from various campus organizations such as University Counseling and Consultative Services and University Student Activities.
Bishop said the meetings probably helped the religious groups respond more quickly to tense campus situations.
“When there were racial epithets on dorm walls a year or so ago, quickly they mobilized prayer groups and programs in the dorms,” Bishop said. “That’s likely because members of CCM had met with housing officials.”
Last year campus ministries also started a group called “Intersection.” About three times a quarter, students can attend different religious services and ask questions. This quarter, the group will attend Lutheran, Baptist and Jewish services.
Stiefel said 10 to 15 students usually participate in Intersection.
“It’s meant to be for both people in established faith traditions, and people who are really searching.” Stiefel said.
Cooperative Campus Ministries was formed in the early 1990s, when it separated from the Council of Religious Advisors.
The newly formed Cooperative Campus Ministries “was a more liberal group, and we had more in common in the terms of programming we wanted to have happen on campus,” said Peg Pfab. At the time of the separation Pfab was director of the United Ministries in Higher Education, and worked closely with Cooperative Campus Ministries as it was forming.
Two main issues that caused the split were stances on homosexuality and views on converting people to different faiths.
“We wanted to free our energies to deal with issues that we felt needed addressing,” Pfab said.