What Students Say

What Campus Ministry Means to Us

Student Experiences with Lutheran Campus Ministry at University Lutheran Church at Northwestern

Celeste Mora
Junior English major from Richland, MI

“If I had not discovered ULC, I probably would not be a Christian right now. I grew up in a nondenominational evangelical mega church in a very small town. Many of my neighbors went to this church, although some people drove up to an hour to service. At first, I loved the born-again, conservative culture, but as I grew older I found I didn’t agree with many of their ‘values.’ When I tried to find space to sort out my doubts about the church and the Christianity it preached, I was judged and eventually ostracized. Then I came to Northwestern, and a good friend introduced me to ULC. I was skeptical about church at the beginning, but I quickly saw that ULC was nothing like my old congregation. Finally, I found a community that loves me without judging my doubts, and this has encouraged me to reclaim my faith. I am so glad I came to ULC, since it has been a place for me to heal, rediscover the meaning of church, and reconnect with God.”


Dan Linder
Senior Piano Performance and History major from Westport, NY

“When I came to the Northwestern University Lutheran Church four years ago as music director I thought that this experience would just be another thing to put on my resume, but my relationship with ULC and the Lutheran faith has blossomed into something much more meaningful than that. This job has given me valuable musical and leadership experience but has also exposed me to the Lutheran faith. By attending church every Sunday I have gradually developed a better understanding of Christian values and a closer relationship with God. Sunday worship and other ULC events are a respite from my stressful college existence and give me a chance to think about important questions and enjoy fellowship with other students at ULC. Last year I became a member at ULC, signifying my personal investment at this church. ULC at Northwestern and the Lutheran faith have become an important part of my identity.”


Gwen Straeffer
Sophomore Math and Religious Studies major from Chelmsford, MA

“When I arrived at Northwestern as a freshman, I was coming off a summer working at an ELCA outdoor ministry, so ULC seemed like the perfect place to try out. The first service I attended was nice and familiar; the people were friendly. So I came back. As my freshman year continued, however, I began to fight a huge internal struggle with anxiety and depression that wreaked a lot of havoc on my life mentally, socially, physically, and spiritually. I was angry with myself, with everyone else, and most especially with God. I threw myself into the ministry at ULC, hoping that if I tried harder to be a good Christian, my situation would magically improve. Of course, that’s not exactly how it happened, because that’s simply not the way it works. But as I started assisting during worship, serving on the church council, tutoring a sassy 4th grader, and really getting to know my fellow ULC students, I began to find that God was already there for me in all the places I’d forgotten to look. Lutheran Campus Ministry gave me the opportunity to explore my challenged faith and grow as a person, as a student, and as a member of the ELCA community. Through my work as a peer minister, I have been able to fully understand what kind of a resource we can be for other students, and I truly feel that Northwestern is blessed to have a place like ULC. For me, ULC is my second home, and I cannot imagine my college experience without it.”


Jared Erickson
Graduate student in Industrial Engineering from Eagan, MN

“My church experience before coming to University Lutheran Church mostly consisted of going to worship regularly without being noticed by others in attendance. That would be very hard to do at ULC with our small community. I am much more involved now than I would have imagined when I first walked in the door, and I have grown because of it. My understanding of worship, the Bible, service to others, stewardship, the ELCA, my place in the church as a member and leader, and much more have changed and grown because of my time at ULC. Now I can see how it all fits together and how I am a part of God’s church. This would not have happened in the same way if I were in a traditional congregation or some other campus group. I pray that ULC will continue to be a meaningful place for Northwestern students for a long time.”


Kayla Viets
Junior Biology major from Overland Park, KS

“I come from a family that has always been heavily involved in the Lutheran church. When I came to college I wanted to continue that involvement. I found just what I was looking for at University Lutheran Church. What I especially love about ULC are the many opportunities for student leadership. At my church at home, I often feel as if I am still considered a ‘young adult’ rather than a potential congregational leader. At ULC, we are a student-led congregation, making the decisions that directly affect us by serving as council officers and peer ministers, planning community outreach events and volunteer work, and leading services as assisting ministers, lectors, and worship committee members. ULC has also offered me a support that I would not otherwise have had at college. In an academic setting where I often feel that there are few people who understand how important Christianity is to my life, ULC provides me with a home when I’m sad, worried, or stressed. At ULC, I’m reminded that I’m not alone and that I’m part of a vibrant community of believers. We as college students are often told that we’re the church of the future, but at ULC we prove that we’re also the church of the present, as we support each other, serve the community, have fun, learn, discuss our faith, and glorify God.”


Laura Grace Beckerman
Junior Astrobiology major from Bellevue, WA

“To me, Northwestern University Lutheran Church means community. The students who comprise the congregation have become my second family. Before ULC, I attended a Catholic all-girls school for seven years. The most valuable lesson I learned outside of my academics was about the meaning of true Christian love and how to live for others. I carried that message with me to Northwestern, but with the negative sides of the Catholic high school experience still fresh in my mind, hesitated to find a new church on campus. When my roommate invited me to carve pumpkins at her church, I was excited to relive a childhood Halloween tradition. I instantly adored the members of ULC whom I met that night. I was excited to return for Christmas cookie baking at the beginning of December. I found that these students were passionate leaders in their community who thought critically about the world around them. Reminded of all the parts of Christianity that I loved by the way in which these students lived out Jesus’ teachings, I started attending services in January. The students were so welcoming, and they appreciated my presence. No one turned me away because my faith was shaky. Instead, they encouraged me to ask questions so I could develop my faith. I became more and more involved, until now, I can no longer imagine my life without ULC. ULC, and campus ministry in general, provides a much needed place for the church to interact with students. Young, bright college kids are no longer near their home congregations and often feel awkward in community churches, where the average age is typically a decade or two (or more) above a normal student age and where the common concerns of the community drastically differ from the normal problems of college. Furthermore, campus ministry encourages students, who have not yet figured out their faith, a safe place to explore, ask questions, learn, and grow. Campus ministry allows students to get involved before sending them out into communities where they will continue to act as passionate, dedicated leaders with experience gained from wonderful places like ULC. I am immensely grateful to ULC and to the incredible community of students who attend church and participate in activities.”


Leah North
Junior Anthropology major from Aurora, IL

“After I spent a quarter at Northwestern without attending any church services, I realized how much I deeply missed the faith support and personal connections afforded by a church. I first went to a traditional Lutheran parish church, and quickly realized that there was no place for me there. College is a unique time in life, and the sorts of conversations that I wanted to have would not have been addressed in a church where the majority of people were already married with children. Since finding ULC, I have realized what strong connections college students can make with each other based upon their commitment to the church and especially to service work. ULC has taught me what it means to be a leader in a congregation. I feel confident that my experience in a student-led council and worship setting has prepared me for further work in the church when I move on from school, and that I will feel compelled to offer up the lessons I have learned from our work here to whatever church I attend next. College is a time where many students feel disconnected from the church, from spirituality, and from God. Campus ministry is the key support for those students, and provides a solid basis from which to train the future leaders of the Lutheran church.”


Michael DeBaets
Junior Religious Studies major from Cupertino, CA

“Campus ministry has changed my life’s entire direction. After leaving the church in spirit at the end of high school and leaving the church in body in freshman year, I explored Zen Buddhism, Sufism, and New Age spiritual teachings. One Saturday night in the winter quarter of my sophomore year, as several of my academic and my extra-curricular activities crumbled, I read the scheduling email that my pastor sent out faithfully every week, and saw that Northwestern was beginning to plan an ecumenical Taize service. I had been to one Taize service at home, and I remember how dark, mysterious, and calming it was. So I decided to help plan the Northwestern one. But then I should go to church first, right? So I went. And I kept going. I read some books on prayer. I had an awesome Easter. I switched my major to Religious Studies. That was the end of sophomore year. I’m now discerning whether to start graduate school in Religious studies, to enter seminary, or even to become a monk! Without reading that fortunate email on that fortunate night, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably not in church, or at least not anywhere near the extent I am now in church. Campus ministry, especially one as well-reputed as University Lutheran Church, plants countless seeds of devotion and service into our hearts, our cores. And college campuses are such fertile ground, offering so many new perspectives, where the courses of many of our lives have been set. It would be a true shame if Lutheran campus ministry were to wither away.”