A group of 80 people, composed of primarily high school-aged United Methodists from the Northern Shenandoah Valley and their chaperones, explored what it means to “live in the Kin-dom of God” during a recent daylong “Mission u” event held at Shenandoah University.
“Any time I get to engage with students of any age as they wrestle with complex subject material, inside and beyond the classroom, that speaks directly to the day-to-day realities of their lives, it is one of the highlights of my job, and this day was a prime opportunity for that,” said Shenandoah University Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Development and Outreach Ian Carlos Urriola.
The day’s curriculum, designed by United Women in Faith, a women’s advocacy organization connected to the United Methodist Church, asked three primary questions: “What is the Kin-dom of God like? What is the Kin-dom in the midst of challenges? And, what is our participation in the Kin-dom?”
“Kin-dom” of God was popularized as a term by Cuban American theologian and ethicist Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, who authored “En la Lucia/In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology.” Isasi-Diaz used the word “Kin-dom,” rather than the hierarchical “Kingdom,” to describe God’s bottom-up approach to freedom.
Shenandoah was invited to host the event by some other leaders in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church (and its United Women in Faith leaders), said Urriola, who noted that while it was Shenandoah’s first time hosting “Mission u,” he hopes it won’t be the last.
Urriola said he and Shenandoah University Chaplain Rev. DeLyn Celec admire United Women in Faith and its work and were more than happy to participate. Shenandoah Office of Spiritual Life chaplains and staff led the emerging student leaders through the curriculum, the focus of which, he added, “also lines up perfectly with our mission to educate and inspire individuals to be critical, reflective thinkers; lifelong learners; and ethical, compassionate citizens committed to making responsible contributions within a community, a nation, and the world.”
Although the participants considered heady topics during “Mission u,” they also had time to enjoy Shenandoah. They shared a meal at Allen Dining Hall and met Vice President for Student Affairs Yolanda Barbier Gibson, D.A., as well as a representative from the university’s Office of Admissions. Sarah Celec, from Transformative Teaching & Learning, and Tamiya Earley, from the Division of Student Affairs, also helped to lead a warmup activity for the students. And, the group culminated its experience by being led, in part, in closing worship by the university’s Harambee Gospel Choir.