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Christian Union: The Magazine
December 8, 2021

Student Leaders Welcome Freshmen; Resume In-Person Ministry

By Leah M. Smith, Princeton ’22

The first floor of the Melrose Center is reduced to a low hum; sounds of chatter from a senior women’s Bible course waft down the stairs to join the smell of Domino’s pizza. A few people sprinkle the chairs in front of the TV in the extended dining room, while others hover in the back, laptops out, pens pressed to paper. It’s a typical Monday night for Christian Union Nova at Princeton, where Monday Night Football and studying late into the night has become a Melrose norm.

1 nova fall retreatStudents and ministry fellows at CU Nova's fall retreat in October at America's Keswick in Whting, New Jersey

After a year online, students are reveling in the smallest moments with one another, and spontaneous get togethers have been present in the student’s group chat. Whether praying at the Princeton University Fountain of Freedom together or gathering in bedrooms for hours of talking and prayer, it’s beautiful to watch as seeds of faith grow and are nurtured by the abundance of God’s living water.

CU Nova’s Fall Freshman Welcoming Campaign featured a series of events to introduce first-year students to Bible courses and a vibrant Christian community. After such a long time online due to Covid restrictions at Princeton, student leaders knew it wouldn’t be so easy to draw students in—even the sophomore class hadn’t experienced CU Nova in its full capacity in person. Thus, the mission of Fall Campaign focused on having more outreach and hangout events like Monday Night Football Night, to draw in different crowds.

A backyard of Melrose worship and BBQ night to start the semester off was a huge hit, gathering around eighty people outside for food and fellowship, and served as the source of most Bible course sign-ups. A Chick-Fil-A open house in the University’s Campus Club introduced freshmen and sophomores to CU Nova upperclassmen.

Tabling in Frist Campus Center consisted of CU Nova students signing up to take shifts listening and speaking to members of the Princeton Community about CU Nova, about God, and about their own personal walks with Him. Senior Luke Martinez, one of four student executive leaders, said, tabling was an invitation for people to “Come and see… See that God’s love is an open door, and that Christians are just people—people who are open and understanding, ready to listen to someone’s questions.”

One highlight, Martinez said, was meeting someone who wasn’t familiar with Christianity at the table. 

“They were so excited that someone was able to talk to them about their questions. They just needed a nudge of greeting and invitation…and it was wonderful to see them express interest in what it means for one to truly live as a Christian. It was really special for me to share in that,” he said.

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Martinez and the CU Nova student executive team are now continuing what they started with the welcoming campaign—to host enriching Christ-centered community spaces, foster fruits of the Spirit, and loving and enjoying the Lord. One event that exemplified fostering fruits of the Spirit was a day-long service trip to Restoring Hearts Ministry in Trenton, New Jersey. Students went into the city to show kindness and support to those in need. Martinez, who led the trip, said it was “an opportunity for us to demonstrate how God sees us… to show people that God sees them by providing for their physical needs.”

Martinez noted how service is integral to fulfill the purposes of God for our lives. “Service involves connection. Both parties receive, and God receives. He is rejoicing to see his people helping each other, those engaging in service and being served are connecting. Visibility, understanding, and compassion are shared, and that is so important,” he said.

Other highlights of the fall semester included Bible courses, Nova’s weekly leadership lectures series  Encounter and TruThursday, and the fall retreat at America’s Keswick on October 1-3. The featured speaker was James Fields, lead pastor at Sojourn Church Carlisle in Louisville, Kentucky, and former Christian Union ministry director at Princeton.

“The main objective was to encourage the students at Nova to grow and establish a spiritual depth that would anchor them into the firm foundation and cornerstone of Jesus Christ, our Lord,” he said.

Freshman Yash Sharma of London, said, “The retreat was a well needed refreshment to the soul and a solid challenge…”

Bible courses also launched in October. Qwynn Gross, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Princeton, said CU Nova was off to a strong start studying the book of Philippians.

“Together, we are fulfilling the mission as some students lead peers in study, while freshmen students acclimate and have verbalized how refreshing their Bible Courses are!” she said. “Even more, to watch various students respond to Paul’s writing by appropriating the meaning of joy amid challenges in life might be what I consider the most rewarding of all!”

Amidst all the Bible courses and other ministry events, it’s encouraging to see the seeds of faith that are taking root for CU Nova at Princeton University. 

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