The mission of University Lutheran Church, as a community of believers in the ELCA tradition, is to serve God and God’s people. We are called to share God’s love in Christ on the Northwestern campus and in the larger community. Because of the barriers which humans often construct, we affirm with the apostle Paul that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). Therefore, we welcome all God’s people regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, age, handicap, sex, and sexual orientation. We are a student-led congregation. Our mission is carried out through worship, education, fellowship, witness, campus and community service, and ecumenical and interfaith ties.
This mission statement articulates the ongoing sense of purpose of a congregation that emerged thirty years ago from a Lutheran ministry to Northwestern University that dates back to the 1930s. In authorizing the organization of the congregation, the Lutheran church bodies which then were providing the ministry to Northwestern affirmed the proposal that university students in this largely residential setting should have the opportunity to be the church, not simply to play church. The effect of the reorganization is that students who participate in University Lutheran Church both enjoy the privilege of and bear the responsibility for planning and giving leadership to their own life together, their nurture and their outreach, as a community of God’s people on the NU campus.
Based in a campus ministry center that is situated one block west of Sheridan Road, at about the north/south midpoint of NU’s campus, ULC (as University Lutheran Church frequently is called) today is one of five congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that are located in the city of Evanston. It alone is composed almost entirely of students and has as its ongoing raison d’etre these intentions:
- to offer to the people of Northwestern a Christian ministry out of the Lutheran tradition
- to help people to integrate the academic experience and the Christian faith
- to build Christian community in this academic setting
- to respond to human need on our campus and in its Evanston/Chicago context
- from our academic setting and experience, to contribute to the mission and the ministry of the ELCA.
ULC’s students represent a broad spectrum of Northwestern’s schools, colleges, and departments. Some are engaged in undergraduate studies; others are enrolled in graduate and professional programs. A few non-students also are part of the congregation. They are people who live and work in the area and, for the most part, are NU alums.
Like every congregation, University Lutheran Church offers a variety of programs and opportunities and is accustomed to people’s making to it a variety of commitments. Some students use ULC simply as the Christian community with which to worship God on Sunday mornings. Others also participate in one or more of our educational programs, discussions, service projects, and occasions for fellowship and fun. Quite a number become ULC leaders. Some find in the ULC community their closest campus friendships. Some come to our campus ministry center to do their studying. Some eventually join the congregation. A few, through ULC, avail themselves of opportunities for participating in, and even for giving leadership to, other expressions of the church (like the ELCA’s Metropolitan Chicago Synod and its Northeast Conference) and the Lutheran Student Movement-USA.
We welcome each and all of these responses. Indeed, we who are ULC attempt always to be a welcoming community, for by the heritage of the Reformation, we Lutherans are a people who know ourselves ever to be welcomed, welcomed by a gracious God–chosen by God in our baptism for a lifelong relationship of care and blessings; readily and regularly affirmed, though we fail and are imperfect; freely forgiven, though we are sinful; and lovingly greeted and reconciled, whenever we come home to the One who has made us and whose Son has died for us.
Welcomed by God and empowered by the Spirit, we extend the word and the offer of welcome to everyone. Our sincere hope is that all who ready this, whether new students or returning, will accept one or more of the invitations that it conveys. Come to our center; get acquainted, or reacquainted; and consider making ULC the community in which your Christian faith and life are nurtured.