When passing by, students may wonder what the building is at the corner of University Drive and Kit Carson Drive. Since the 1960s, the building has been home to the Wesley Foundation at Eastern Kentucky University.
According to the Wesley website, “The Wesley at EKU is a campus ministry of the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.” The Wesley started as early as the 1950s as a campus ministry.
Brandon McGinnis, the Wesley director, said the Wesley is a safe place for students to learn and mature in their faith.
“A lot of what we do is around hospitality and trying to create a safe environment for students where they can explore faith, recognizing that every student who comes in the door comes in in a different place on their faith journey,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. He became the director of the Wesley in 2017. In the Methodist denomination, clergy are under appointment, meaning the clergy are either sent to a job or apply for a job. For McGinnis, his role was a combination of both.
As the director, McGinnis said he is responsible for everything due to the size of the ministry and because he is the only employee.
“I oversee all the programming but then I also, as much as I can, am responsible for visiting other churches to talk about the Wesley, doing any sort of publicity or communication for the Wesley to talk about what we do so that other people, not only in the hopes of supporting us but so they know about it and can pray for us and what’s going on,” McGinnis said.
Since the Wesley has a building on campus, McGinnis also acts as a facilities director.
One of the main goals of the Wesley is to see every student loved, happy, and whole in Jesus Christ.
“Our audacious vision is the idea that every student on campus would know that they can be loved, happy, and whole in Jesus Christ. So the idea that God’s work in our life is so that we can know that we’re loved and that we’re put together and we’re called in those types of things,” said McGinnis.
The Wesley strives to meet this goal by doing activities together each week. On Sunday, students participate in Sunday night worship at Richmond First United Methodist Church. On Tuesday nights, the ministry provides a meal and discusses a devotional or faith topic. On Wednesday nights, the ministry has a bible study. Outside of the main weekly events, the ministry also does leadership meetings, hangouts, service projects, and more.
One student, Thomas Hill, began attending events at the Wesley during his first year at EKU. Hill was heavily involved in his youth ministry back home in Stanford and wanted to find a similar community in college. He initially joined the Wesley and Cru but leaned more towards the Wesley.
“I gravitated more towards the Wesley Foundation, not only that I was born in the Methodist church but also the pastor, the old pastor at my home church, was friends with Brandon and had let them know that I was coming over in 2017 and I enjoyed the community here,” said Hill, a fifth-year student studying political science.
Since joining the Wesley, Hill has gained a core group of friends and matured in his faith by having an open environment to ask questions without judgment.
“I was never really in a position where I was like given the green light to ask difficult questions regarding faith, but Brandon not only asks difficult questions, he welcomes them whenever someone poses them,” said Hill.
Hill also credited McGinnis with creating an environment where anyone is welcome, regardless of where they are in their journey with faith.
“Brandon has always been always willing to work with everyone to try and shape our events around to where the most people would be able to attend. He’s always trying to be flexible so and also they just have a very receiving personality here,” said Hill.
Currently, the Wesley has around 15 to 20 members, with 10 to 12 regular attendees. Before the pandemic, the ministry had around 35 to 40 members.
McGinnis said anyone can join the Wesley, even though the ministry is through the Methodist Church. One thing he stressed was the importance of meeting people where they are and making them feel loved when they come to the Wesley.
“We really do believe that with a safe and welcoming and supportive environment, students can really find a place to belong here and really have a community that they can kind of go through the college experience with and that community be for their good for their support, but then also there’s those elements of learning about grace and joy and peace and these things that God supplies in our lives,” said McGinnis. “We always do our best to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible.”
For more information, visit The Wesley Foundation at EKU website at https://www.ekuwesley.org/.