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Christian Union Welcomes Class of 2021

BY CATHERINE ELVY, STAFF WRITER

Students involved with Christian Union’s ministry at Harvard College eagerly welcomed members of the class of 2021 as they descended upon Cambridge.

During late August and early September, ministry fellows and returning students hosted a series of events to greet freshmen, including a pizza party, waterfront picnic, and ice cream social.

“The upperclassmen and ministry fellows are hungry for a harvest,” said Tyler Parker, a Christian Union intern and Harvard alumnus of 2017. “We are motivated in our mission.”

harvardcampaign smallIndeed, student leaders and ministry fellows were tireless in their intensive efforts to introduce and showcase Christian Union’s core leadership development opportunities, including Bible courses and the leadership lecture series.

Before the critical freshman welcoming campaign, about 50 undergraduates joined Christian Union faculty at Ottauquechee Farm in Vermont for a retreat that included worship, prayer, teaching from Ministry Fellow Jon Yeager, and a game plan for upcoming outreach activities.

The retreat “served as a wonderful opportunity for members of the community to build strong relationships among one another and to truly soak up this vision (to build Christian leaders who will transform culture),” said Eunice Mwabe ’19, vice president of Christian Union at Harvard. “We came back to campus fully charged, confident of what God was doing and encouraged by the prospect of participating in His work at Harvard.”

Within hours of returning to campus on August 25, the upperclassmen gathered near the bronze statue of benefactor John Harvard, famously anchored in Harvard Yard, to invite frosh to a pizza party in Boylston Hall’s Ticknor Lounge.

Participants in Christian Union’s ministry also took advantage of the event to invite incoming students to a Saturday dinner outing and to attend area churches on Sunday. A handful of the new collegiate peers joined Parker in attending nearby Aletheia Church, where they witnessed a jubilant baptismal service that prompted discussions.

“There were lots of awesome relationships formed,” Parker said of the weekend. “People were starting to feel really connected to the community.”

While studying government, Parker served as a pastoral intern for Aletheia Church and also as a student leader and assistant Bible course leader for Christian Union at Harvard.

In other activities, returning students hosted a picnic on August 28 near the John W. Weeks Bridge, the landmark span across the Charles River. The upperclassmen ventured to Harvard Yard to invite freshmen to join them for buckets of fried chicken. While in the iconic Yard, Parker even extended an invitation to a swarm of energized frosh exploring campus with former First Daughter Malia Obama ’21. 

A day later, the crew of upperclassmen served up scoops of J.P. Licks ice cream to throngs of recent arrivals on Harvard’s Plaza near the Science Center. Parker ecstatically recounted how hundreds of frosh encountered the ministry’s evening ice cream station after exiting the annual freshmen talent show in Sanders Theatre.

“It was a really amazing, unplanned opportunity,” said Parker.

Better yet, the gathering also provided opportunities for believers and seekers to make connections with Christian Union.

In addition, Harvard’s newcomers relished impromptu jam sessions, prayer gatherings, and outings to favorite Boston destinations, including Chinatown.

Such a groundswell of enthusiasm prompted Scott Ely ’18, co-president of Christian Union at Harvard, to characterize the autumn campaign as very encouraging. “The response we’ve had so far from freshmen has been overwhelming, and there is an exciting degree of openness among freshmen to ask deeper questions, and a willingness to explore Christianity,” Ely said.

Likewise, Mwabe noted she was especially proud of the way established students exhibited leadership. “It has been super inspiring to see people take ownership of the vision themselves,” she said.

On September 1, more than 160 students packed into Yenching Auditorium to attend the ministry’s inaugural leadership lecture series. Yeager, the featured speaker, explained how a childlike faith is marked by imagination and dependence on God. A week later, Nick Nowalk, a Christian Union teaching fellow at Columbia, visited campus to highlight the dangers of spiritual isolation and the ways believers can flourish when they commit to vibrant Christian communities.

“The upperclassmen and ministry fellows are hungry for a harvest. We are motivated in our mission.” —Tyler Parker, Harvard ’17

Such a message soundly resonated with Parker and the ministry’s student leadership team.

“We’ve been motivated by the momentum,” Parker said. “We’re expecting God to show up in even more extraordinary ways than He has already.”