2453 Dena Drive  San Angelo, Texas 76904
Office: 325.949.0239  Cell: 325.234.6127

Bringing Community To Campus United Campus Ministries Serving Angelo State University and Howard College Since 1968

A.S.U. United Campus Ministries, Inc.

A History
(Updated January 2016 by The Rev. Gary Sanford, Chaplain UCM)

UCM was begun in the late 1960’s when the United Methodist, Episcopalian and Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) decided, in the ecumenical spirit of the day, to join forces in ministry on the San Angelo College (now Angelo State University) campus. Incorporated as A.S C. United Campus Ministries, Inc. December 17, 1968 they purchased the house at 2453 Dena Drive in 1969 and made a formal covenant together. A year or so later, the Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches became partners in the ministry and latter the United Church of Christ. On March 11, 1971, the name was amended to A.S.U. United Campus Ministries, Inc. to reflect the change from San Angelo College to Angelo State University.

The first full time minister/director hired by the board of directors was the Rev. Dr. David Ehalt, a Methodist minister, in 1973. He served as campus minister until 1988, when he left to pastor a small church outside of Austin. During his tenure at UCM, he taught religion classes for credit at ASU until the mid-eighties when Jim Maddox, attorney general in Texas at the time, offered the opinion that Bible Chair-taught classes were a violation of the separation of church and state. After Ehalt’s departure, the Rev. Thomas Wessman, a Presbyterian (PCUSA) pastor from Oklahoma was hired as full-time director/minister. During his tenure, UCM was known for its drama ministry at local churches and throughout the region. With his departure in December, 1991, the board chose to hire an interim lay director, Marilyn Flage, while it evaluated the ministry at that point and made plans for the future. In the summer of 1992, the board also hired the Rev. Sonya Gravlee, a United Church of Christ minister, as part-time campus minister to work with Mrs. Flage, who continued as director. In January 1994, Gravlee became the full-time campus minister/director.

In late 1994, the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas withdrew from United Campus Ministries to form a
Canterbury Ministry. In June 2007, the Episcopal Church rejoined UCM.

In 2000, Gravlee left to pursue a doctorial degree in California and was replaced by the Rev. Nancy York (a Methodist minister). December 2007 York’s position was eliminated due to the withholding of funds by the United Methodist Church and February 2008 the Rev. Gary Sanford (Episcopal deacon) accepted the position of part-time chaplain for UCM as a non-stipendiary position (Episcopal deacons are not paid for their service).

In past years, UCM had been a vital and energetic ministry. UCM was known for its ecumenical work, its social
ministry, planning and directing the annual CROP Walk in San Angelo, mission trips, and retreats. Much of the
programming was planned and implemented by a UCM Council of students, formed in January 1995. Sometime between 2000 and 2007 that Student Council ceased to exist. There was a slow but steady downward trend in student events, programs and involvement. After the Rev. Nancy York left in December 2007, the spring 2008 semester showed a sharp decrease in the student population at UCM. We were starting to lose support from the Board of Trustees and contributions were dropping off. There were even hints that the ministry should be dissolved. Things were pretty dismal.

On January 29, 2009 Deacon Sanford and his wife Eldra organized a group of students to find out what programs and activities would benefit them and make them want to come to UCM. Five students and five board members met with good results. This meeting resulted in the re-birth of the Student Council (renamed Student Advisory Board) which was officially recognized at the March 2009 meeting of the Board of Trustees. Through the efforts of this student board there was an immediate increase in participation. Numbers for Food 4 Thought (the Wednesday free lunch program) increased from 2-3 students to a high of 30 students in April 2009 and an average attendance of about 20-25 students. (Starting in 2009, this program was maintained through the two summer sessions—something that has never been done before—with an average attendance of 11 students). In November 2009, we also started of first Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This was so that students that were unable to go home could enjoy a family style holiday dinner. This became an annual event. Other programs were also started; Dinner & Games on Sundays, Theological Discussion on Mondays, Bible Study on Tuesdays, Student Board meetings every Thursday, book study Fridays, and Movie Madness on Saturdays. Retreats have been revived and there are plans for mission and social justice work.

Also in 2009 Samantha Sandifer was hired for the newly created position of Student Program Director. This is a liaison position between UCM, the students, and Angelo State University. Its purpose is to create and develop new programs for UCM and coordinate implementation with ASU. Samantha had to resign the position when she graduated in May 2011 and was replaced by Bernardino ‘Chito’ Hernandez for the start of the Fall semester in 2011.

After several meetings with the clergy and other representatives from Tree of Life Church we asked them to join us as a participating denomination in January 2011. TLC is a non-denominational congregation that is very charismatic, evangelical and fundamentalist. Since UCM is about learning and questioning we thought that this might be good exposure for our students and a way to broaden their views. While we all recognized the risks involved in such a union the difference was too munch for the TLC students. Because of that they withdrew their support at the end of the Spring semester.

The annual Sweethearts & Jazz fundraiser held in February 2011 resulted in very low revenue for UCM. We added another fundraiser, a dinner theatre produced by the Emmanuel Episcopal Church drama group, St. Genesius Thespians, in March 2011. This event featured the original one act play Moments With God written and directed by our own Eldra Sanford and was much more profitable.

In November 2011 at a regular board meeting it was decided to discontinue Sweethearts & Jazz in favor
concentrating on the dinner theatre.

By the end of 2011 we were feeding over 80 students on Wednesdays at our Food 4 Thought lunch. This has become more of an outreach program rather than an educational program because of the extended hours and the come-and-go nature of the event.

2011 was also a time of financial struggles requiring several cuts in operating costs. We were unable to travel for retreats; however, two mini-retreats were held at the UCM building. One was a discussion on the Jewish faith with guest lecturer Ami Mizell-Flint from the Peace Ambassador of West Texas and attended by five students. The other was an overnight lock-in attended by eight and included a three-hour theological discussion period. This event, in addition to those with Christian backgrounds, was also attended by two agnostics and one atheist.

On April 19, 2012 Deacon Gary was assigned by the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas to work full time at UCM. With the approval of the Board of Trustees the full-time chaplain/director (still a
non-stipendiary position).

2012 has been a very difficult time for us. Due to a lack of funding most of our regular programs had to be put on hold; however, we have been able to continue Food 4 Thought. Chito had to be replaced as Student Program Director at the start of the fall 2012 semester and Nicole McDonald was hired as his replacement. Her efforts have produced several encouraging possibilities for the spring 2013 semester.

Nicole left us at the end of the spring 2013 semester to continue her studies as a student teacher in Cleburne, Texas and graduated from ASU in December 2013.  Nicole was replaced by Cassandra Trautman for the fall 2013 semester.  Cassie graduated December of 2013 and was replaced by Christine Turner in January 2014.

Finances continue to be a big problem for UCM and our fundraising efforts for 2013 have not been very successful. Because of that, we have had to make additional cuts for 2014 and one of those was the elimination of the position of Student Program Director after Christine left us in April of 2014. Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to bring this position back.  Its value was immense.

We are also faced with a dwindling number of supporters. Christ Lutheran (ELCA) closed their doors during the summer of 2014 leaving us with no Lutheran support. The Methodist church has wanted to sell there 50% ownership since 2008 and have remained supporters in name only. It is my hope that the Episcopal church will some day be able to buy the property rights from the Methodist church.

On a brighter note, there has been quite a lot of activity at UCM for 2014. Several students have been meeting regularly to watch movies or to study. Several outside groups have had meetings at our facilities and we have hosted three Sunday night suppers for the senior high group from Emmanuel.

Calendar year 2015 started out slowly with only one Student Advisory Board member, Collyn Glaspie. While we fed an average of 61 students through our Food 4 Thought program other activities were few. On March 15, we served those interested with the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday. This was the second time we have offered this during the lunch program and this year we had 15 people receive ashes.

For the Spring Semester, we were able to have one Student Board meeting with four attending. For the Fall semester, we had 13 Student Board meetings with an average of 7 students attending. This board has been very interested in doing things such as reverse Trick of Treating for the children at Shannon Hospital, re-painting UCM, attending services at our supporting churches, and hosting church youth groups for movie/discussion nights.

Collyn had to leave us mid-way through the Fall Semester as president of the Student Board and was replaced by the vice-president, Julia McDaniel.

Two movie/discussion nights were held involving church youth groups. For the first we viewed and discussed the movie Believe Me and for the second we viewed and discussed God’s Not Dead both were well attended and there was great interaction by the middle school and high school students and the university students.

In addition to having a very active Student Advisory Board we also received several very generous private donations which made it possible to continue our annual Thanksgiving feast and obtain a new computer for the office. The Thanksgiving feast was held on Tuesday November 24 because the university was closed on Wednesday November 25. Plans were to skip it this year, but the students demanded that we continue the tradition. Thankfully we did and several students told me that they would not be able to go home this year. Thank you to Mavis Bell and John Caldwell for making this possible. A total of 79 were served, more than twice what we had in the past.

In December, we received an early Christmas present from the now defunct Christ Lutheran Church. They sold their building and divided the proceeds among different non-profit organization. We were the recipient of $5,000.00 and most grateful for that addition to our bank account. It was a welcome boost for the end of the year.

In 2016 we look forward to possible changes in UCM. We have had several discussions with The Rev. Steve Purdy, District Superintendent for the United Methodist Church. The goal is a reintegration with the Methodist Campus Ministry, and, while several details have to be worked out, it is both Steve’s and my desire that this take place. Several discussions with the Board of Trustees and the Student Advisory Board indicate that this is a possibility. The Fall Semester at UCM has indeed been very eventful and I look forward to 2016 with great expectation.

Discussions with the Methodist District, The Rev. Steve Purdy (District Supervisor) and Lori Jones (Wesley Ministry Director) continued. A planning retreat was held on February 13, 2016 at the Caldwell ranch to develop a plan for reuniting UCM and the Methodist churches. At that meeting it was decided that Wesley would begin moving their resources to our location and become reunited with UCM. In March Lori began conducting her regular Monday evening Bible study at UCM and has filled in as mentor at some Student Board meetings when I had to be out of town. At the close of 2016, we are, however, still awaiting full integration.

Our Student Board has been very active during the year. Julia McDaniel was elected president for 2016, however had to resign because of conflicting commitments and was replaced by Brittani Beggs. Several students attended the UCM/Wesley planning retreat in February, continued the reverse trick or treat at Shannon hospital and a trunk or treat at Emmanuel Episcopal. In November, we participated in the ASU Fall Fest.

In August, we were able to hold a 6-day retreat for eleven students at the Mayan Ranch near Bandera, Texas. This is the first retreat we have had in several years and was made possible by a generous grant from John Caldwell. We were able to hold group discussions and three worship services with the last service led by a student. The value of these retreats in building closer bonds and exploring spiritual journeys is immeasurable.

Food 4 Thought continues strong and, with the help of Emmanuel Episcopal and Good Shepherd Episcopal, we were able to continue our Thanksgiving Feast on Tuesday, November 22.

2016 also saw several changes at UCM. Besides painting the interior walls, we had the outside of the building repainted and the Hackberry tree removed. Trimming of the front yard trees is scheduled for March 2017. We also started refinishing the floors. It was decided to remove the green shag carpet and restore the wood floors, however, this turned into a larger project than anticipated. Part of the floor was particle board and it had to be removed and replaced with hardwood flooring. An area around the furnace had suffered water damage and had to be repaired. Work is coming along, and looks good, but taking longer than expected.

Several fundraising projects are under consideration with plans to involve the other supporting denominations. Each will sponsor a separate event all of which will be drama based.

Elected as president of the UCM Board of Directors in December 2007 the Rev. Sanford served eight years in that position from January 2008 through December 2016. In December, John Caldwell, Jr. was elected as president and will take office January 2017.

Funding for programs at UCM is provided by local churches, and denominational and secular agencies;
additional resources come from individuals and fundraising efforts.

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