Earlier this April the church leadership team met at the Clemson Outdoor Research Lab. While there we discussed our plans for the fall semester which include service projects, fellowship, and also faith formation events. Our retreat wasn't all business, however. We also did some team building exercises on a low ropes course, played a few board games, and walked down by the lake. Overall, we had a great trip and are really looking forward to the small semester.
Editor's note: A group of around 20 students traveled to Washington, D.C. during Clemson's spring break from March 17 through 26. The following words are reflections on the main points of the trip from LCM students.
In D.C., we got to see several of the Smithsonian museums and memorials. One day, we were able to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which just opened last year. In the portion of the museum dedicated to the period of slavery, South Carolina came up a lot. This reminded me of the See the Stripes movement at Clemson that promotes acknowledgement of Clemson’s history of slavery. We also saw several memorials I had never been to, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. Near the end of the trip, the Cherry Blossom Festival was occurring. It was very pretty, and without seeing it I would not have known what a big deal the festival was.
While in Washington DC for spring break we had the opportunity to work at Charlie's Place and Martha's Table and also partake in a Poverty Simulation. Charlie's Place is a soup kitchen for people experiencing homelessness and they also give them some clothing. Working here was a very unique experience because we got to talk to the people who were experiencing homelessness there and hear their story, their interests, it definitely gave a different perspective on what I personally knew and thought about people experiencing homelessness. Martha's Table was a emergency food preparedness center, so when we went there we chopped giant containers of vegetables and potatoes. I chopped kale with 2 people from the community, which is what I will take away most from my experience: that there are more people than just those in church groups like ours that want to help out. The last thing I will tell you about is a Poverty Simulation that we did with 2 other schools that were there, we were put into "families" each having a pre-set life, my character had a job as the only source of income and was fired after day 1. We had 15 minute days which were mostly sent frantically going around to wait in lines and pay bills. This simulation really put into perspective the unease that not being financially stable can bring, whether it being not finding a job, being fired for uncontrollable reasons, or even natural disaster. Not knowing if you can pay your bills for the month is terrifying in the simulation and puts you into a frenzy. These were just a few of the interaction we had with people experiencing homelessness and they were each educational in their own way.
We had the opportunity to take part in advocacy work at the Capitol during one day in D.C. That morning we departed from Luther Place and headed to the ELCA Advocacy Center for a lesson from Nathan Detweiler on the role of the ELCA in policymaking. Nathan highlighted the depth of the ELCA’s stance on advocacy, as its lobbying efforts are based on specific church doctrines that have undergone years of construction and review before their approval. After the discussion, the group headed to meet with our elected representatives. At Sen. Lindsay Graham’s office, we had the opportunity to meet with the Senator and then an aide to discuss issues sensitive to many of us in the group. After a tour of the Capitol building, we also met with aides to Senator Tim Scott. At each meeting we addressed critical issues such as healthcare, military spending, education, and CDC funding, all of which will be faced by the current Congress. Though we did not alter policy by ourselves, I believe the meetings were important in bringing constituents’ issues to the Senators’ offices. It was apparent from the issues raised that federal policy directly impacts many of our lives as students even before graduation. Research funding and job security were two recurring topics, along with national security and health. The opportunity to participate in advocacy on behalf of the ELCA allowed us to take part in policymaking and make a small drive for change for the betterment of our world.
On our last day in Washington D.C., we attended Friday Prayers at a mosque attended by a Clemson graduate who was active in Clemson’s intercultural dialogue club. As someone who has no experience or knowledge of the Islamic faith, I really enjoyed this visit and the dialogue we had with our hosts. The mosque we attended had Turkish and English in their service. It also had Arabic because many of the parts of the service were required to be in Arabic. Before the service started, I was looking through a copy of the Quran and I saw many names that I recognized. We share many of the same prophets. It was a very uniting experience to worship the same God but with new friends. After the service, we had a small meal. I later understood that it was mostly because their main service of the week was Friday Prayers which meant that many people had used their lunch break from work to attend service. I loved learning more about and experiencing a new religion which I feel is very misunderstood in our society.
On Saturday, April 1st, students in LCM gathered with members of University Lutheran Church to participate in service projects as part of Operation Inasmuch. This program mobilizes churches nationwide for a day of community service each April, reaching over 200,000 people in 2016. This year six LCM students volunteered to restore a playground at the Clemson Child Development Center, spreading mulch to lessen the dangers of hard ground impacts for 2- to 4-years-old children. Meanwhile, another LCM student visited the local Sterling House of Central assisted living facility to interact with residents. Operation Inasmuch presents an opportunity for college students to connect with members of the Clemson community in the surrounding area, including both beneficiaries and fellow volunteers. The day of service is a great opportunity to give back to the local community that makes Clemson more than just a school, and I hope that it will continue to serve as a bridge between people in the years to come.
On the Second Thursday of each month, LCM-Clemson meets at Spill The Beans ice cream parlor for "Beans 'n' Hymns", a fun evening of ice cream, hymn singing, and fellowship with friends. We've invited the other campus ministries to join us. The singing is lead by Christopher Girardeau and/or Derek Johnson, who both play the guitar. This event gives us an opportunity to reach out to the community and socialize with people who might enjoy singing hymns, but don't always have time to get to church on Sunday morning. We borrow a few hymnals from the church, then we sit on the sofas and chairs in the side room, then we look through the hymnals and sing for the next hour or so. The environment is fun, the attitude is happy, and everyone involved has a great time. Thanks to Andee at Spill The Beans for allowing us to share this lively get-together with the community!
Our spring camping trip to the Biggerstaff Retreat Center in Seneca was a blast. We stayed two nights in a large cabin on Lake Keowee. On Saturday morning, we helped Pastor Jon Heiliger and his wife move to their new home. We emptied their storage unit into a moving truck and then emptied the truck at their house after a nice lunch. After, we returned back to Biggerstaff and played some Spikeball and Frisbee near the lake. At night, we made a fire in the fireplace to help us stay warm through the cold night. The weekend was very laid back, and we hope to go camping again in the fall.