by Elizabeth M. Truong
Virginia Tech students, past and present, will never forget the events of April 16, 2007, when a lone gunman took the lives of 32 people and wounded 25 others. The massacre was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Following the tragedy, the Rev. Keith Beasley, who serves Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in nearby Roanoke, Va., reached out to Lutheran students to address their spiritual needs. The students expressed a desire for a consistent Word and Sacrament ministry located on the campus, along with Bible study and fellowship opportunities. Soon thereafter, three students and a faculty advisor registered the Lutheran Outreach at Virginia Tech (LOVT) as an official student organization, and Rev. Beasley began traveling to Blacksburg every Sunday to hold an afternoon service.
Five years later, LOVT is served by Vicar Alexander Marque, a student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. On an average Sunday after-noon, 1218 students attend worship. Most students come from a Lutheran backgroundthough not all. One student was recently confirmed at Good Shepherd, LOVT’s “mother congregation.”
What can Virginia Tech students expect to find at LOVT? “The Gospel, purely preached, and the Sacraments, rightly administered,” wrote Marque. “Not only is LOVT a very warm, welcoming and loving community, but [ministry] is done in a biblical way because it is all centered in Christ through Word and Sacrament. Everything that LOVT does flows from Christ at the center. There is Law and Gospel preaching and the body of Christ gathered around the Sacraments, which bind us into our one body of Christ. It is not just a group of friends, but a group of brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Marque leads two weekly Bible studies offered to studentsthe Sunday study is an in-depth look at a book of the Bible and the mid-week study is topical, covering theological themes such as Christology, the Trinity, justification and the Church Year.
Fellowship activities include retreats, social gatherings or special meals, such as an “Agape Meal,” where students serve one another by cooking dinner for each other. LOVT students also have participated in Synod-wide service projects, such as the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. They get the word out about their ministry by participating in all-campus events like the “Relay for Life.”
Marque spends about 20 hours a week meeting with LOVT students and others on campus. “Building trust and relationships with the students has been such an important aspect of this ministry,” he said. “That means setting up lunch appointments, grabbing coffee, having group dinners or even inviting students to play games in the Virginia Tech BreakZONE.'”
Marque notes that while other campus ministries own their own buildings and offices, “We don’t have that, but we do have a willingness to be present where the students are, instead of making them come to us.
“This is what also makes us different from a traditional’ parish ministry,” he says. “Our central location’ for most of the week is wherever we have the opportunity to gather together.”
> Go to www.unwrapped2013.org to learn more about the upcoming LCMS Campus Ministry conference.
> Learn more about LCMS Campus Ministry at www.lcms.org/campusministry.
About the Author: Elizabeth M. Truong is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.