Local fellowship give students support system

Leaders of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry want to make their presence known on campus this year.

In addition to their missionary outreach traveling plans, BCM wants to get more students involved this year.

“Nov. 3, we are going to New Orleans to work with churches to help victims of Katrina, and we’re also going to Gainesville this semester for missionary work,” said BCM council member Joseph Harris.

Harris, 20, a sophomore psychology student from St. Petersburg, is in charge of the praise and worship ministry.

The ministry, located next to McGuinn Hall on Martin Luther King Drive, offers various opportunities for students to come together. This semester, BCM began offering prayer fellowship for students at the Eternal Flame weekly.

Because of the ministry’s proximity to campus, Harris believes it is a good location for students to relax during the school week.

The Eternal Flame prayer time is in addition to the fellowships BCM offers every Thursday with dinner and the ministry’s Friday barbecues. BCM has ministries specifically for men, women, music and prayer.

But Harris emphasizes that BCM, which is led by the Rev. Larry Hunt, is a fellowship, not a church. They follow Christian teachings, but “we are open to believers and non-believers,” Harris said.

Baptist Collegiate Ministries have fellowships on a number of campuses nationwide.

“BCM is a support system,” said Loy Reed, a representative for Florida’s BCMs. “We’re a halfway house for many students who don’t have a church home when they come to college,” Reed said. “We provide support to help them transition to local churches.”

College is a time when many students test their faith. Reed said BCM can help students during this time.

For James Douglas, religion became less important as he grew older and came to Florida A&M University. Growing up, Douglas, a junior criminal justice student from Miami, was raised in a religious home and his mother made him attend church. But in the latter part of high school and the beginning of his college years, he stopped going.

“Religion is no longer a key part of my life,” Douglas said. “But I am still a Christian-I still believe in God.”

Douglas says he doesn’t believe he has to go to church every Sunday to live right. “A lot of people who go to church regularly do more wrong than those who don’t.

“Basically you know right from wrong. You can wake up everyday, say ‘Thank you Lord’ and you live.”

In contrast to Douglas’ experience, Luis Sosa found religion when he came to FAMU.

“Before I came to college, I never went to church,” said Sosa, a junior political science student from Miami. “During my freshman year, I went to church with my friends; I got used to it and started going regularly-even by myself.”

Sosa is still not an every-Sunday churchgoer, but he said he goes more than before he came to college. “When I go to church, I go for God, not for the preacher or minister. I don’t care what church I go to, as long as I’m there (with God).”

As he goes through college, he said his spirituality is helping him on a daily basis.

“In high school, you depend on your parents for everything. But when you go to college you begin to miss that part of your life. God can fill anything you’re lacking-any empty space.”

Reed said that’s why the ministries exist on college campuses: to help support those who want to fill that spiritual space by fellowshipping with other students.

“The ministries can offer a lot for students,” Reed said.

But the main goal is to “help students find a personal relationship with God.”