One way I try to live out the charism of The Initiative Movement is through the intentional practice of building relational unity among the Christian campus ministers at the University of Chicago. When I first arrived on campus nearly 17 years ago, the place was kind of a mess when it came to collaboration among Christian groups. I often joked that you couldn’t say that students would not so much know that “we are Christians by our love”, but more by our glove – the boxing gloves we used against each other as each group was competing against each other for more “market share” of the student ministry. It seems every group (including our own!) was more interested in expanding their ministry empire rather than in working towards the kind of relational unity that builds the Kingdom.
17 years later, I am privileged to witness a new movement of Christian unity on campus, including Protestant and Catholic campus ministries, as we work together in friendship, co-sponsor one another’s ministry events, pray together, and learn to highlight and respect one another’s unique ministry strengths to students and faculty. Even with the COVID19 pandemic introducing new challenges to campus ministry, I see that the relationships among the various Christian ministries on campus have only strengthened as a result of the challenges of the pandemic. I’ve called it the Ecumenism of Shared Frustration. Every ministry has experienced a shared frustration in how to carry out their ministry to students in an era of social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, and we’ve learned to rely on one another even as many of us face shared challenges in carrying out ministry on campus during a global pandemic.
As I reflect back over this positive shift in the spiritual atmosphere on the campus of the University of Chicago, I believe the origin of this movement of Christian unity began with very simple spiritual practices: friendship-building over meals, praying together over coffee, and “calling out the gold” in one another by finding ways to honor what each ministry is doing on campus. Personally, I learned from my friend Dr. John Armstrong how important it was to patiently build relational unity even among those divided by doctrinal disagreements. Over time, we built trust together, prayed together, and walked together through our shared joys and shared struggles. Even as I write this, I anticipate that the Holy Spirit wants to do something powerful in this atmosphere of Christian unity – just not sure what it will be yet? Whatever happens in the future, I wanted to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to all our friends in the Initiative who have modeled to me this kind of relational unity over the years.
John Yoon, December, 2021
John Yoon is a Pastor and Campus Minister with University Bible Fellowship at the University of Chicago.