When Rev. Steve Musick approached me in October 2014 about representing New Providence Presbyterian on the board at UKirk, I didn’t think I was qualified. I didn’t grow up in the Presbyterian church, nor did I participate in campus ministry when I was in college. What did I have to offer other than a warm body and an idea or two about fundraising?
Before agreeing to take the spot, I met with then-campus minister, Kally Elliott, to ask her about the organization and to pick her brain about how I could be useful. I learned that UKirk is a place where students can wander in with zero church affiliation or a lifetime of Presbyterianism. They can be themselves, find camaraderie and refuge, and experience spiritual and personal growth. I agreed to serve on the board, but it was after my first meeting in November 2014 that I realized I was in for a lot of work.
As it turned out, Kally was in the process of accepting a call to pastor a church in another state. Also, the board chair was rolling off of her term, so right away UKirk was undergoing massive changes. That meant a period of decision making was ahead for the remaining board members, but it wasn’t lost on me that the students were the ones who’d suffer the most. They loved Kally – as a pastor and a friend – so not only was it hard to watch her move on her career, it was emotionally difficult to know she was moving hundreds of miles away. As the search for a new campus minister began, I saw this as an opportunity to use my intuition, organizational skills, and industrious attitude to help UKirk turn the page.
By May 2015, I was the new board chair on paper but understood my role to be co-chair alongside UKirk alum Megan Paris. With her keen experience and my fresh eyes, I knew we’d make a good pair. Together we filled in the gaps from having no campus minister and served on the Pastoral Nominating Committee. Essentially, we spent most of the summer of 2015 looking for Andy Morgan. We didn’t know who we were looking for, but we’d know him when we saw him.
Happily, Andy accepted the call in early September and we warmly welcomed he and his wife, Sarah, to Knoxville in October 2015. Not only was I confident that the right person had come along, but I had hope that he would bring new energy to the house, develop programs to enrich the students’ lives, and be a voice and advocate for whomever walked through the doors.
Here I sit, nearly two years after Andy coming to UKirk, and almost three years after agreeing to serve on the board, and I couldn’t be more proud of what’s been accomplished. New programming, new staff, new outlook for the future. I’ve done a wide range of tasks for UKirk, everything from cleaning toilets and setting up for FootVol Parking on game days to attending Presbytery meetings and being a part of hiring two outstanding individuals to serve and lead the students. I’ve done grunt work that was tedious and emotional work that kept me up at night. Every last bit of it has been humbling and an immense pleasure.
The best experience thus far was when I went to Montreat with the students in January 2016. Not only did I get to see the students in their most powerful, memorable element, but I was blessed by the knowledge that I had been a part of something very good, that my service wasn’t in vain. Everything at UKirk is done with the students’ spiritual well-being in mind, and Montreat was evidence of that effort.
I’ll be rolling off the board soon, and while part of that makes me sad, I’m certain that whomever fills my spot will have a new set of ideas and skills to bring to the group. Maybe a second opportunity will roll around and I’ll get to serve again. Maybe one of my sons will attend the University of Tennessee and decide to give UKirk a try. Maybe something bigger and better that none of us can foresee will come around for the ministry. Regardless, I’ve been blessed by this experience and know that I’ve been a part of something wonderful.
UKirk at UT Knoxville