Rev. Dwight Welch

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” Psalm 24:1.

Students are now in the process of moving into the dorms, and classes start next week at MSUB. They already have started in the public schools of Sidney.

Having taught college courses before, I offer a few pieces of advice. Most of these you’ve heard many times before, because they’re true. Feel free to pass on to any young people you know.

Always attend class. Whenever I taught classes, those students who succeeded were in class, raising questions, whether they understood the material or not.

Listen. Ask lots of questions. Challenge yourself and any preconceived notions you may have about the world. Read the material. Always read and be attentive to the discussions and lectures.

Take advantage of the many resources your school has to help you to succeed, including writing labs, professor office hours, and tutoring.

Find ways to get involved outside of the classroom, whether it’s with school groups or the wider community. That will provide many of the memories you’ll treasure from your time in school. In high school that was band and speech. In college it was campus ministry for me.

Make new friends with people who are different from you. Go to the ball games, even if you’re not a sports fan (it’s the overall experience that can be so much fun).

Volunteer — it feels good to do good. Be kind, especially when it’s hard.

If you are a student with a faith background, I commend to you the scripture from Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

I take that to mean that there is no area of study and no area of knowledge that does not add to our understanding of the world. And if this is God’s world, then an increased understanding of the world means a more adequate basis from which we can come to understand God better.

When I was a freshman in Missoula, I had many groups warn me about a humanities professor who taught the Bible as literature. I was told that she would rob my faith. I’m glad I ignored their advice, as I gained new ways of reading and appreciating the Bible when I took her class.

I also learned that I didn’t have to fear other certain classes. From biology to literature to philosophy, I didn’t have to create a wall of demarcation to separate my faith from what I was learning. Nor did I have to avoid classes or subjects to protect my faith.

It’s only by fully engaging your classes that you’ll be able to learn from them. As you learn more, of course, your ideas will change, including your ideas about faith. As your ideas shift, they will become more your own and not simply what you inherited from your family and childhood. They will have a deeper foundation as a result.

Now some will say, quite rightly, that this is what school is all about. But they seem to imply that such a process ends after graduation. I pray that is not the case for you.

The philosopher John Dewey once said, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.”

What you are engaged with in school, then, is not a stage, or something you do to get yourself set up for life. It is your life. It sets up patterns by which you will engage life that will last far beyond school.

By embracing your time and education, you are embracing God’s world and the possibilities that mark your life. Go Eagles and Yellowjackets!

Rev. Dwight Welch is the Campus Minister at United Campus Ministry at MSUB and pulpit supply for Peoples and First Congregational in Sidney and Savage.

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