New Center Headlines Faith Formation Initiative

Commitment to educating students in the context of the historic Christian faith has been a central part of the Hope identity since the college’s founding more than 150 years ago. At the same time, Hope makes a point of being invitational rather than prescriptive when it comes to sharing that faith with the students in the college’s care.

A new Campus Ministries house to be constructed starting this summer and ready to open in the fall of 2019 will embrace and embody both ideas, providing an inviting space in the most central campus location possible, along the former 12th Street between the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center and Wyckoff Hall. It’s one of three components of the “Faith Formation Initiative,” a $10 million micro campaign that is also providing endowment support for a new chaplain in athletics and for programming. Sufficient funds have been raised to move forward with a groundbreaking and to hire for the new chaplaincy; however, further support is needed for the programming and endowment of the initiatives.

The three-pronged effort supports the college’s strategic plan, Hope for the World: 2025, which across multiple goals — from academics, to Christian formation, to global engagement to community — emphasizes helping students engage with the Christian faith and understand how it can inform them as they study, pursue vocation and live in community with others in a diverse and interconnected world.

“Ours is a spirit of invitation and we want to make that invitation as inviting as possible,” said the Rev. Dr. Trygve Johnson, who is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel. “Working in partnership with the rest of campus, our ministry strives to share the Christian faith in a way that is ecumenically expansive, intellectually rich and missionally imaginative. With the new space and resources, we’ll be better able to serve the college as Hope moves into a new future.”

The new center will succeed the Keppel House on 10th Street, a stately former private residence which has housed the program since 1994 but has become outgrown as Campus Ministries programming and student interest have expanded. Currently, for example, meetings that draw 50-some students are held in the building’s basement, unheated and unfinished space never intended for such a role.

Designed to complement the surrounding campus architecture, the new building will include a balcony and covered porch facing Van Raalte Commons and the Pine Grove, and an amphitheater for outdoor events or for students simply to enjoy fellowship and their surroundings. Within, the facility will include small and large gathering spaces, a commons area, a library that can also be used for meetings, a prayer alcove and office space sufficient for a staff that is currently spread among other locations.

“Space communicates what we value,” Johnson said. “At the center of campus we’re putting a building that’s dedicated to Christian formation and faith.”

“The strategic location at the heart of the campus will provide a more central location to serve students,” he said. “We also envision new partnerships with Western Theological Seminary and the college’s Student Development Office, both of which will be just steps away.”

The center will entail an estimated project cost of $5 million, including an endowment for ongoing building maintenance and operation. Crucially, noted Jeff Puckett, vice president of development and alumni engagement, none of the funding was at the expense of other needs at the college.

“We completed the project with a committed group whose passion was to support this specific project within the Faith Formation Initiative,” he said. “In so many ways this effort complements our focus on growing the college’s endowment so that Hope can continue to offer an outstanding education at an affordable cost.”

The construction project means the removal of the Delta Phi Cottage and Fried Cottage. The Delta Phi Cottage has housed the sorority since 1980. Among other uses, Fried Cottage, which has an international theme, through the years had also served as the Alumni Office and college guest house, and housed the Office of College Advancement, Department of Education and the Office of International Education. Both the sorority and the internationally themed housing will be provided other cottages on campus, and while the Delta Phi house can’t be saved, Fried (build in 1898) will be relocated.

The athletics chaplaincy, funded with a $2 million endowment, will serve the approximately 500 students, more than 50 coaches as well as athletic training staff who are involved in athletics at the college, not only linking Campus Ministries and a major co-curricular program more closely but also providing pastoral care grounded in understanding of the students’ experience and sometimes-unique concerns. “What happens when a student blows out their knee and their athletic career is over?” Johnson said. “There are a lot of issues of identity at play.”

The remaining $3 million being raised for endowment will help underwrite programming and some of the current staffing, so that the work does not result in a greater cost for families. “College-wide, we want to continue to offer world-class opportunities not only in the classroom but in co-curricular activities in a way that is affordable,” Johnson said. “We want to position the ministry so that it’s not tuition, room and board that’s funding it.”

The Campus Ministries program took its current form — a dean of the chapel leading a team of chaplains and additional staff — during 1993 and 1994, through an expansion funded by the college’s Hope in the Future comprehensive campaign, which included strengthening Christian life and witness as one of its four primary components. The college had previously had a chaplain and assistant chaplain whose offices were located on the lower level of Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

Hope is committed to offering all students a robust Christian experience. Those who would like to know more about supporting this crucial initiative that supports the college’s Christian mission should contact the college’s development office at 616.395.7775 or development@hope.edu.