A home hidden within a school, Campus Church offers a place of support and belonging for students at Durham College (DC) and Ontario Tech.
Every Friday, dozens of students across the two campuses come together to not only hear youth-centred sermons, but also engage in discussions, meet new people, play games and “build friendships that will last a lifetime.”
“No matter if you’re a Christian or not a Christian, everybody is welcome,” says Emilia Miller, a third-year student at Ontario Tech. “I think that really left an impression on me. It taught me how to be more welcoming myself.”
According to Miller, Campus Church was one of the reasons she applied to Ontario Tech.
“I found out about Campus Church through a friend I grew up with. She took me to a couple of events even before I was in university and I really, really loved it,” she says. “I then joined because I was looking for a community that shared similar beliefs and I loved what I found.”
Jack Willms, president of Campus Church, describes the organization as a non-denominational Christian group of about 60 students that’s “not meant to be a traditional church but a fellowship.”
Willms, who is in his third year at Durham College, has been a part of Campus Church since his first semester at school.
“I take my faith pretty seriously so I wanted to be involved,” he says. “With how busy school is, it’s easy to fall off the rails but having meetings that are so accessible and having other people hold you accountable makes it a lot easier.”
The club relies on students to “step up” for leadership roles, according to Willms. ”If people didn’t do that, it wouldn’t be running.”
While it is primarily student-run, the organization relies on the Ontario Tech Student Union for funding. It is also supported by Calvary Baptist Church in Oshawa as part of an initiative that also aids other colleges and universities in the country.
Campus Church’s resident pastor Rod Rudd has been overseeing meetings for about seven years.
“I work in campus ministry and help students explore matters related to faith and spirituality so I was drawn to the group here that focused on that,” says Rudd.
“One of the biggest impacts of the church has been a sense of belonging to a community on campus, a sense of hope and purpose, and life beyond being a student.”
The club hosts outreach events and orientation week events for both new and returning students. They also organize free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year.
“Especially coming to university and not knowing a whole lot of people, it’s a great place to connect and find some friends,” says Miller.
Aside from the main meeting called ‘Refresh’ held on Friday evenings in a classroom at Ontario Tech, Campus Church also has various ‘connect groups’ on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and a ‘campus worship hour’ Tuesday afternoons.
“It’s just about having a good time and making those connections…long-lasting friendships where people will be by your side no matter what,” she adds. “Lots of people go to college and it’s all about partying but for me, I found this so much more fun and fulfilling than any party.”