02 December, 2004

An unusual sight at the university

Walking along the brickyard after lunch today, between the Atrium (i.e., fast-food central) and the math building, I spied some students sitting at a table. That's not so unusual in itself: the brickyard is the traditional spot for people who want to distribute information, contact volunteers, or sell stuff.

What was unusual about this table was its attention-getting poster: in big red letters on a yellow sign, PRAYERS. It startled me enough to make a 90° turn to learn what this was all about.

As I approached, I saw that one of the young men at the table was a former Calc I student of mine. I had really admired him as a student despite his trouble with the class, but I wasn't sure if I remembered his name correctly. Two years will do that to you.

I stopped at the table. Besides P— (I looked up his name) and two people accompanying him, I saw a big white poster sitting on the table. It looked like a schedule: initials indicated the days of the week, and someone had carefully marked off a table as if by hours. It looked as thought they were soliciting volunteers for prayer. Red lines filled in some hours as though they had volunteers, although no hours or names were actually listed.

So what's this all about? I asked, waving a finger to point at the poster.

We're with the Campus Christian Fellowship, P— told me, and we're taking prayer requests. He pointed to what looked like a collection box. Got any prayer requests? Fill 'em out and we'll pray for you.

I do, in fact, have some prayer requests, but they'd caught me off guard and I would have liked to think about them. I can't do it right now, but yeah, maybe. How long will you be here today? I asked.

Until one o'clock! P— said, as did one of his assistants.

I looked at my watch and grimaced. It was already 12.15. Well, good luck, I said, starting to walk away. Thank you, they replied.

And then, because I wanted to express just how much I liked this idea, I added, It's a really, really good thing you're doing.

I wish I were better with words. We religious people need to make ourselves publicly available like this much more often. Some Christian group on campus (maybe the same one) sponsors a brickyard preacher; he harangues the crowds with hellfire and damnation. I don't have anything particularly against that, aside from the fact that people need to see more than one face of Christianity — and that one is not a good one for attracting those who most need Christ. A booth taking prayer requests is a far, far better way to shine the Light into this darkness.

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