New Wesley Foundation serves students on campus of former Lambuth University
Rev. Steven B. Fonville, back center, is overseeing a new Wesley Foundation campus ministry at the University of Memphis Lambuth in Jackson, TN. Students like these are participating in on-campus and off-campus activities. Submitted photo.
The University of Memphis (UofM) flag was officially raised over the Lambuth campus on Jan. 12. Photo by Lane Gardner Camp
By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference
The United Methodist Church will continue to have a presence on the campus of the former Lambuth University, thanks to a newly-formed campus ministry with an appointed minister from the Memphis Conference.
The University of Memphis (UofM) Lambuth campus ministry in Jackson, TN joins four other Memphis Conference “Wesley Foundation” campus ministries at Murray State University in Murray, KY; University of Tennessee in Martin, TN; University of Tennessee in Memphis; and University of Memphis in Memphis.
The need to create a student ministry at Lambuth became necessary after the campus was acquired by the State of Tennessee in December for use by the University of Memphis, which began offering classes on the Lambuth campus last fall.
The UofM flag was officially raised over the Lambuth campus on Jan. 12 with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and other dignitaries in attendance. Read story HERE.
Methodist-affiliated Lambuth University ceased operation in May 2011 after 168 years of higher education service.
Currently there are 331 students enrolled at the Lambuth Campus, according to Curt Guenther, Director of Public Relations for the UofM.
Rev. Steven B. Fonville of the Memphis Conference was named in November to serve the new Wesley Foundation at UofM Lambuth as a part-time appointment. He also serves Mt. Zion UMC in the Brownsville District.
Fonville is not new to the Lambuth campus, having served as Lambuth University’s chaplain from 2008 until the school closed.
Fonville has been working with UofM Lambuth administration, students and a recently-named campus ministry Board of Directors (made up of clergy and laity) for a successful campus ministry launch, according to Andrew Halford of Paducah, KY, Chair of the Memphis Conference Division on Higher Education and Campus Ministries.
The Wesley Foundation is now an officially-recognized student organization at UofM Lambuth, said Fonville.
The board recently elected officers: Gary Morse, Chair; Sharon Karamoko, Vice Chair; and Joy Austin, Secretary. Morse and Karamoko are Memphis Conference clergy. Austin is a professor at UofM Lambuth.
As Lambuth University was nearing closure in 2011, the school’s Board of Trustees discussed the need for a student ministry that would continue to serve the campus, said Halford.
“Lambuth, as a historic institution of the Memphis Conference, deserved a continuation of its spiritual presence,” he said.
Because funding would be needed, a resolution was presented and passed at the 2011 Memphis Annual Conference in June in Paducah, KY that any apportionments (for Lambuth) received after June 30, 2011 would be allocated to cover operating expenses for a Lambuth campus ministry.
“This action by the Memphis Conference proved the support of the clergy and laity for Lambuth and its continued presence,” said Halford.
After funding was addressed, Halford said the Memphis Conference Division on Higher Education officially adopted a proposal and plan to establish the new campus ministry. The Memphis Conference cabinet approved that plan, appointed a campus minister and coordinated naming a Board of Directors.
The Division on Higher Education established a budget for the new ministry, recommended governance and worked with Lambuth Memorial UMC near the Lambuth campus to secure at office and meeting/activity space for the student ministry, said Halford.
Fonville reports “a good core group” of about 15 students currently participating in Wesley Foundation activities at UofM Lambuth.
Most all of the students are new to the campus, but a few, like Sophomore Sarah Chandler of Jackson, have stayed with Lambuth through its closure and new beginning as UofM Lambuth.
Chandler said she was “devastated” when Lambuth’s closure was announced, but is now “so happy that another institution has taken over to continue the legacy.”
Even with the changes, Chandler, a member of Malesus UMC in Jackson, said Lambuth “is still a caring and loving environment.”
“I think it is very important that the campus has a Wesley Foundation,” said Chandler. “This is an essential growing time for the campus and it is important that a campus ministry is established.”
A campus ministry will assure that students have a “nurturing place” to go, she said.
“Students can feel like they belong somewhere, which is important during college years. It also provides a very welcoming environment for everyone.”
Chandler expressed hope that the ministry will grow and that incoming freshmen will decide to participate. She is looking forward to doing community service projects.
Wesley Foundation at UofM Memphis currently worships every Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. at Lambuth Memorial UMC near the UofM Lambuth campus and has a Bible study every Thursday at 11:15 a.m. on campus. A covenant/accountability group also has been formed.