University Baptist Church welcomes students

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

For students at Oklahoma Baptist University looking for a church congregation to be a part of, home could be found just across the street.

University Baptist Church’s history has been deeply interwoven with OBU, and the church continues today to be a powerful partner in the spiritual development of students. The communities of the church and university overlap, and the result of this overlap is a congregation that enjoys welcoming the young people who come to Shawnee through the university.

Justin Dunn is the pastor of University Baptist Church, and he’s thankful for the connection that the church has been able to share with OBU.

“In the past, and in some ways today, the church being across the street from campus was convenient and helpful for students who didn’t have cars or were saving on gas money,” Dunn said. “At times the church has hosted OBU events and different organizations in our facility. A couple of times over the past ninety-eight years UBC has held services on the campus during times of construction or special occasions.”

The fact the church congregation is peopled by many from the OBU community – both students and faculty – allows connections to be made beyond the school, and sometimes beyond the time of service.

“Through the years there have been many from the OBU community that have remained in the church long after graduation or retirement from working at the university,” Dunn said.

University Baptist Church has a rich history in Shawnee, being founded in 1921 as North Church.

“In those early days of 1921 the church met in a home with around 20 charter members,” Dunn said. “Much of the leadership, from a ministry student as pastor to two young women leading music, came from the student population at OBU.”

A few years later, the church building was constructed – which still stands as part of the facility today. In 1931, ten years after the church began, it was decided to change the name to University Baptist.

As pastor, Dunn is especially proud of the church’s social conscience, and the way that it has guided the congregation through the years.

“The church has had a history of taking stands on social issues of the time,” he said. “This has included racial equality and fair housing practices. Believing strongly in the autonomy of the local church, UBC has a long history of upholding the role of women in ministry. As such, women have the opportunity to serve in the role of deacons as voted on by the church.”

That strong social conscience still exists in the church.

“Today UBC continues this legacy of seeking Christ and being Christ in our community,” Dunn said. “Our ministries include partnering with Mission Shawnee in serving lunch once a quarter through H2O, hosting families through Family Promise, and many partnerships with the work of Community Renewal.”

UBC hosts two worship times every Sunday, a traditional service and a contemporary service. Dunn is quick to point out, though, that these are not separate groups – they are all expressions of the one body. The many generations served by the church add a richness to the congregation.

“We come from various backgrounds and there exists within the church a healthy theological diversity,” Dunn said. “We have various ministries, various interests, and various perspectives, but there isn’t a different place for each of those groups. They are all a function of the one church.”

Dr. Canaan Crane, associate professor of psychology and one of two worship leaders for the contemporary service at the church, echoes this.

“I think UBC is a great place for students who want to find ways to serve and who also want to interact with all ages and generations,” he said.

Dunn’s first advice for any students looking for a church is to take the decision seriously.

“It may sound typical, or ‘churchy’ but I would honestly first encourage them to pray,” he said. “Then, I would ask them to consider that just as they are a member of the OBU community, that plugging into a Shawnee church could be their opportunity to broaden their community and enhance their time not just on Bison Hill but in Shawnee… At UBC you will find a place to expand, explore, and strengthen your faith. Our community is flexible, free, and open to people at all stages of their faith development to come add to the ongoing conversation of knowing Christ and displaying Him in our lives. Any student that is considering a church home should check out UBC.”

This aspect of the congregation, the ability to add to an ongoing conversation, is what Crane points out in his own life.

“It’s a place where I’ve been challenged to grow in faith and to follow God’s call on my life,” he said. “We are a thoughtful congregation that believes we are God’s people doing God’s work in God’s world.  We seek to deepen our relationships with each other and this also challenges us to live lives that reflect Christ to the world.”

Dunn, perhaps, sums it up best: UBC can become a home.

“UBC has become a home for me and my family,” he said, “and I want people in our community to know it may be a home for them – for a season or for a lifetime.”

Noonday providing bread of life

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Faith Editor

The semester is getting into full swing and that means free lunches for students, every Wednesday at noon.

This gathering, also known as Noonday, is a favorite of students because of the free food aspect, as well as the camaraderie.

Director of Spiritual Life Clay Philips is one of the leaders behind Noonday and also encourages students to join in the event.

“Noonday is a unique event on campus where students get to enjoy each other’s company over a meal, while also engaging with faculty and staff who share their experiences and wisdom from walking with Christ,” Philips said.

Every week, a different church comes to serve food for the students, whether that be a pizza they got from Little Caesar’s or a meal they made themselves and brought to give to the students.

“It’s a great way to see what churches are in the Shawnee area,” Jadelin Calmes, a junior family science and community service major, said. “Every week there is a different church that is eager to serve the OBU community, and that is so encouraging. These people that I’ve never met want to make food and serve to a bunch of college students. And that’s amazing to me.”

It is especially helpful for any freshman on campus who are still searching for a church community to get to know and grow with.

This gathering can be a possible solution for those still church hopping this Spring semester.

“It’s difficult to know where to start looking for a church to go to,” Calmes said. “And so having different churches come every week is really nice.”

The churches and leaders at Noonday are also usually in charge of sharing and connecting with the students as well.

Each week the churches or leaders usually have some sort of piece of wisdom or information to share with the students while they are eating their meal.

“We usually hear a devotional or a testimony from a staff or faculty member,” Philips said.

Calmes sees each week as unique.

“On that note, no week is ever the same though,” she said. “So students are always able to come every week if they please, and glean something new each time. Sometimes it’s a Bible lesson, and sometimes it’s a testimony, and sometimes various camps come to talk about Falls Creek or any other camp as well.”

Whether students are looking for a good campus activity to get involved with or to grab a quick, easy, and free meal, Noonday is the perfect place to go. It provides believers of OBU with a place to fellowship with friends and to grow and foster a new community of friendships for them.

“[At Noonday] we want to provide a fun, loving environment where people are able to hear the Gospel proclaimed,” Philips said.