Wesley Graduate Finds His Calling in Campus Ministry

Oct 1

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Monday, October 1, 2012 1:47 PM  RssIcon


Rev. Warren Light, Esq. is an attorney, Licensed Local Pastor and the Director of the Wesley Center at the University of Oregon. He is a 1988 graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Several years ago, I was sitting in my law office preparing for a court appearance in Los Angeles. A younger associate came into the office and knocked sheepishly on the door. He mumbled that a senior partner wanted him to commit perjury. “You’re a preacher - you tell me what to do,” he said.

 I was not a preacher, but a fellow attorney. I was an active member of Hollywood UMC in L.A., a proud graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary, and a former Elder who had left pastoral ministry to practice law on the West Coast.

The issues eventually resolved without anyone breaking the law. Afterward, I sat with the associate and asked why he wanted a “preacher,” - why me.  He told me that his ethical life and professional life were as far apart as his right hand was from his left. Reflexively, I asked him when that happened. “In college,” he said.

 A few weeks later, I moved from the practice of law back into pastoral ministry with the idea of serving on a college campus. I imagined a place where young professionals could experiment with the concepts of justice, kindness, humble faith, and professional excellence in a safe and supportive environment. God must have been working overtime because I found a board at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Oregon committed to such a community. Methodism started at university. The head and heart are celebrated in our tradition and on the foundation of Wesley Theological Seminary. It is an issue of integrating our separate selves into a whole - social, independent, reflective, sacramental, ethical, faithful, and joyful.

Young people who are striving to build a better world and to transform society and humanity seek a peaceful community in an un-peaceful world. Over the past several months, we have heard about many tragic events on our nations’ campuses. These incidents are increasing as most of our annual conferences have decreased their resourcing of campus ministry.

These are very challenging times for ministry on and off campus. Yet, it is with a hope emanating from the Holy Spirit that I share with you from the University of Oregon. Campus ministry is a mission of hope, imagination, and justice. The Wesley Foundation at the University of Oregon employs a community model for program, missional outreach and evangelism.  We are a community of many communities, housing UMC groups, a food pantry, international students’ groups, writer’s groups, the Muslim prayer room, and much more. Additionally, 90% of the University’s identity/advocacy groups have been part of programs at the Wesley Center, including the Black Student Union, the Survivor’s Empowerment Network, People of the Pacific, and many, many more.

I would like to thank Wesley Theological Seminary!  It would not be possible to engage in this kind of mission - very open, experimental and socially active - if not for Wesley. At seminary, I was invited to struggle, to learn, and to listen. The seeds were planted and the Spirit has yielded a harvest I would have never anticipated.

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