By Gordon Govier

Summer Conferences: Refreshed Faculty

A gift that InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries offers to faculty members across the country each summer is the opportunity to meet together with other Christian faculty in an informal setting, to explore connections between their faith and their work. This past summer, professors and their families gathered in Brevard, North Carolina; Kingston, Rhode Island; Santa Barbara, California; and at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus in Cedarville, Michigan.

Discussion topics were different at each location. In North Carolina, InterVarsity alumnus Carl Ellis and InterVarsity Board member John Inazu talked about the unique challenges and opportunities for Christian faculty working in pluralistic environments, and the need to acknowledge differences and model tolerance, humility, and patience. 

In California, InterVarsity’s Scripture Engagement Director, Lindsay Olesberg, led a daily, in-depth Bible study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Presentations by professors Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Talithia Williams, and Francis Su stimulated discussions on cultural issues affecting life, ministry, and work in academia. Artist Molly Zakrajsek guided the faculty in the creation of a colorful mural (seen in background of West Coast conference attendees photo below).

At Cedar Campus, retired InterVarsity Press Publisher Bob Fryling and his wife, Alice, led sessions aimed at improving the listening process: listening to God, listening to others, and listening to the heart.

In New England the speakers were Alice Brown-Collins, Associate GFM Regional Director, and Robert Chao Romero, a UCLA professor whose grandfather was a leader in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students movement in China.

Faculty who attended the conferences enjoyed a nourishing and enriching time of fellowship and recreation. “It was great to meet other faculty following Jesus, and I treasured conversations regarding faith and work,” one said. Another thankful attendee responded, “I knew I needed to go to a conference that didn’t give me more work to do, but one that gave me the rest and spiritual care that I needed. And I had heard that this was that kind of place. That’s why I signed up to come, and it did not disappoint.”

Deb Clark, Associate Director of Faculty Ministry, said, “These faculty conferences offer a rare and safe space for faculty and their families to engage with a supportive community, and receive significant interaction with Scripture and discipleship topics. This setting is a contrast to the loneliness and isolation often felt both in the university and the church. What a joy to observe how God uses these conferences for healing, encouragement, and restoration.”

A total of 115 faculty, administrators, and scholars attended this summer’s four conferences, expanded for the first time to four regions of the country. Total attendance (including InterVarsity staff and families of faculty) was around 300.

More than 2,000 faculty were involved with InterVarsity one way or another on U.S. college campuses this past year. Thousands more are served through InterVarsity’s online publications: The Well and the Emerging Scholars Blog.