Bringing spiritual life to the campus
The University of Ghana, the University of Science and Technology, and the University of Cape Coast are universities in Ghana which have New Apostolic campus congregations. Two years ago another congregation opened on campus at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW). There was a big celebration to mark its second anniversary.
They were all wearing white T-shirts with “NAC UEW” written in blue lettering across the front with a big red number two next to it. On Thursday, 20 July, some students really stood out from the big crowd on campus. Besides the obvious outward signs some of the students felt a deep inner joy and gratitude.
A milestone for Winneba
The students have every reason to be happy: two years ago, they established a congregation on the campus of the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana. They are registered as a denominational association on campus.
There was a bit of red tape on the way there. “There had been attempts to set up a congregation on campus before,” Ernest Kyeremeh Sarpong, a student at UEW and a Priest in the Church, says. “But the university rules and regulations were not all that flexible.” With the help from some senior lecturers at the university, who are also New Apostolic, the young people finally succeeded in establishing a congregation on campus in 2021. This was not only an important step for the students, but it also helped the already existing congregation in town a lot, because the young people help to fill the pews on Sundays.
Bringing the congregation to the campus
In Ghana it is common for the various denominations to establish congregations on university campuses. The campus congregations see to the spiritual and social needs of their members who enrol to study. “Our church was not really present on campus, other churches were,” Ernest reports. As a result, young people were virtually being lost through education when they transitioned to university. Most of the youth at the secondary and tertiary level were leaving the Church because they were more involved with other churches on campus or simply because did not have access to divine services. “We wanted to close this gap,” Ernest explains. “We decided to create the campus congregation to bring the church closer to the students.”
This does not mean that the New Apostolic students stay to themselves and close themselves off from the other Christian congregations on campus. On the contrary. “We are all under one umbrella,” Ernest explains. “We work as one because we believe that the church of Christ is led by Jesus.” Then he mentions the platform provided by the university. In an interdenominational service, all Christians come together, irrespective of their belief and denomination, and worship together. Several times already, such a divine service has already been conducted by New Apostolic ministers.
When students celebrate
During the celebration of the campus congregation’s anniversary, many were intrigued and joined the congregation’s approximately 80 New Apostolic students. The highlight of the festivities was the divine service with Apostle Addo Charles Asare, the district rector Bismark Seky, and his deputy John Adosipa. Priest Ernest was also asked to open his heart. “This experience in the divine service really motivated me to do the work of God,” he says. “I also learned to do the work of God with great joy without expecting a worldly reward for it.”
Otherwise there were lectures, workshops, and many other activities. During a discussion with the students, Apostle Asare spoke about subjects such as pastoral care of young people, our concept of ministry, and the ordination of women. The ministers of the UEW campus congregation are all students. Priest Ernest reaches out to the young members almost every week to see how they are doing. He receives support with pastoral care from the main congregation in town and from the students’ home congregations.
Sharing their faith and spending time together
Support also comes from the brothers and sisters of the congregation in town. On Sundays, the students join the main congregation in Winneba for divine service. The ministers from the congregation also help out on campus and provide additional pastoral care for the students and support them in their faith. “They also help us out if any of us have a financial issue,” Ernest says. “If one of us needs something, other members from the campus congregation also help out.”
The emphasis is on fellowship. All first-year students are greeted with a so-called Freshers Akwaaba, a welcome programme. Akwaaba means “welcome” in Twi, the local language. “We hope that the new students who have been admitted to the university will join us,” explains Priest Ernest. During the Freshers Akwaaba, a week’s worth of events at the university to welcome new first-year students, Priest Ernest and the other brothers and sisters introduce the campus congregations to the newcomers.
There are also weekly activities that take place on a regular basis. “For example, a doctrinal teaching day, where we teach our catechism,” Ernest says. “We also go on trips and funfairs and do activities that will engage the members and will make them feel committed to our campus congregation.”