Christian faith at Seattle Pacific: What does it mean to us?
When senior Kelsey Lucido walks to class, she often practices breath prayer.
As she inhales, she prays, “Abba, Father,” and as she exhales, she prays, “I am yours.” Breath prayer is a spiritual discipline that Kelsey, a political science and theology double major, learned in class at Seattle Pacific University. “If you’re feeling stressed, it calms you down quickly,” she says.
When Kelsey came to SPU, she says she “didn’t know that much about faith or the Bible.” She was raised Catholic and went to a nondenominational Protestant church youth group in high school, but she says her idea of being Christian meant to attend church, not smoke, and not cuss.
Through her courses at SPU, she learned more about Scripture and service, and how to implement both into her life. “I saw this new way of doing discipleship that was to wholly give myself over to Christ and to pick up my cross and go.”
Professors encourage questions and discussion so that students can form their own educated and resilient understanding of Christian faith.
Faith at SPU is anchored in the life of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible. As an ecumenical Christian university, students learn from the diversity of Christian churches and traditions, not one particular denomination. Professors encourage questions and discussion so that students can form their own educated and resilient understanding of Christian faith.
Professor of New Testament Dave Nienhuis points out that SPU’s faith statement is not a boxed set of beliefs, but a set of shared commitments. “I like the tone this sets for the University,” Nienhuis says. “We know what’s gathering us together, and anyone can join in the conversation.”
All professors at SPU are Christians, and they attend churches from a variety of denominations, including Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Mennonite, Episcopal, and Baptist. Students also come from many different Christian traditions, and also from other religions and ideologies.
All students take the University Foundations sequence, which includes UFDN 1000, a course on the Christian faith, UFDN 2000, a course on Scripture, and UFDN 3100, a course on theology. During their first year, students also take part in Wesleyan small groups, weekly meetings guided by a student facilitator.
“The expectation is that all SPU students will be invited into a rich and winsome encounter with the depth and breadth of the Christian faith tradition, and will come to know the God who knows them, loves them, and calls them into partnership in the restoration and reconciliation of the world,” Nienhuis says.
The first Foundations course focuses on spiritual formation, discerning vocation and calling, and exploring how Christians can be equipped to participate in God’s work of reconciliation. The course looks at history, cultural context, and biblical and theological perspectives on reconciliation, which can be studied further in the School of Theology’s Reconciliation Studies minor.
For Kelsey, SPU took Christianity from being about what you abstain from, to what you practice.
Founded by Free Methodists, SPU is deeply influenced by John Wesley. In his sermon “On A Catholic Spirit”, he looks at the church when it was splintered, like today. “Wesley says, ‘we’re clearly never going to believe precisely the same thing, but can we not love one another?’” says Nienhuis. “He asks, what would it look like to hold hands as Christians even though we don’t always agree.”
In UFDN 1000, students are required to visit a church denomination that’s new to them.
Junior Erika Booth, who has attended the same Baptist church her whole life, expected the Lutheran service she visited to feel foreign. She noted wine instead of grape juice during communion, but was surprised by how many similarities she found, especially in how Scripture was used. “I thought those splits were irreconcilable and that’s why all of those different denominations exist,” she says. “But Baptists and Lutherans have a lot of common ground.”
For Kelsey, SPU took Christianity from being about what you abstain from, to what you practice. She’s involved in her church, tries to take a weekly sabbath, and has served as both a student ministry coordinator and a resident advisor in the res halls. “My faith has shown me that I’m here to serve others and that’s where I find my heart.”
Wednesday night worship service
Student videographer Caroline Beresford-Wood talks with other leaders on SPU’s group leadership core about art, worship, and praise.
Tuesday morning chapel
Led by Minister of Worship and Production Priscilla Ozodo, the student worship team leads weekly music and praise. Here are photos from the Spring 2018 Global Worship Service, which celebrated Christian worship music through the lenses of different cultures and musical genres.