Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has never had a presence in student clubs on Canadian university campuses. Until recently, that is.
On Jan. 15, an MCC-run student club was ratified on the University of Saskatchewan campus. It was started by MCC Saskatchewan community engagement coordinators Myriam Ullah and Kaytee Edwards. Ullah and Edwards are pursuing higher education at UofS and took the opportunity to encourage faith in action among their fellow students.
“We wanted to create a community space for students interested in exploring peace, relief and development work through a faith-based approach,” Ullah says.
Fellow UofS student David Epp is the interim president of the student group. He attends Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, and grew up with a respect for MCC, so much so that he participated in the year-long Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program in Guatemala last year.
Epp believes the on-campus group offers students a unique experience. “This student group offers students an opportunity to apply theory, skills and backgrounds in an Anabaptist Mennonite setting,” he says, “and offers opportunities to put these to use in local service opportunities and in developing a greater understanding for the world in which we live.”
But the student group almost didn’t happen. There were only three students at its first meeting, including Epp. At least 15 participants are needed to receive ratification.
By Jan. 12, 17 students had signed on, and the leadership committee presented its mandate to the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU). The group was ratified a few days later.
Hopes and dreams
The MCC student group is still in its infancy, but the leaders have high hopes for what their membership will accomplish and what MCC can offer them.
Edwards wants it to be a place where students who feel hopeless about the world and all of its problems can find hope. She says that was important to her when she was studying international development. “For me, it was very important to have something outside of school that I could connect with, that could give me hope and help me to see there are good things happening in the world,” she says.
The leaders have tentative plans to work alongside existing MCC programs in the province, invite speakers to engage with members on topics they are interested in, and to team up with other colleges on campus. But they want the members to decide what the focus of the group will be, so it’s student-driven.
“We want to create a space where students can put their faith in action,” Epp says. “It’s an opportunity for them to find a relevancy to the gospel and to continue to find meaningful and life-giving ways to pursue a walk of faith.”
Ullah says their first order of business is to find new members at the USSU campus club recruitment event. Afterwards, they will determine exactly what the focus of the group will be. One possible event is partnering with the St. Thomas More Student Union at the on-campus Catholic college for an upcoming fasting event. She also hopes to get students to volunteer with MCC initiatives.
“We think valuable, meaningful volunteer opportunities are important and want to give students access to places where they can engage in complex theoretical theological issues they engage with in school,” Ullah says.
Epp says he’s excited to see what will happen now that MCC is exploring new opportunities for engaging with young people. “All of us are excited that this is happening,” he exudes. “We’re aware that this is a bit of a new initiative, but it’s a new opportunity for MCC to engage with those in its constituency who are at the university. It’s a terrific opportunity for a new platform for MCC’s witness.”
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