A student-led worship service on campus called the Remedy has had over 120 people in attendance each week since the start of the new school year. The catch is, they usually can’t tell all those people where they’re going to meet until just a few hours before the service begins. The Remedy is the latest in a series of groups that addresses spirituality on campus that have been denied student organization status because they are not affiliated with the ELCA.
Rachel Puro, the founder and leader of the Remedy, said that the Remedy is not meant to be an opposing force to Campus Ministry Commission, but that they simply want to offer another worship venue for students who would like a non-denominational setting.
“I grew up not ELCA, and I went to all the CMC events,” she said, “and I didn’t feel comfortable with the kinds of services they provide.”
Pastor Tim Megorden, however, disagrees with the Puro’s assessment of the worship opportunities in the area. He pointed out that while Concordia’s worship opportunities fit Concordia’s ELCA affiliation, there are churches from a variety of denominations and services, particularly Chi Alpha on the MSUM and NDSU campuses, that address other preferences.
“There are a multitude of gatherings, of worship opportunities, for young adults that reflect almost any kind of particular liturgical orientation or theological perspective,” Megorden said.
To Puro, it was important that these same kinds of organizations be available on all three campuses, not just at MSUM and NDSU.
“We all love Concordia people and want them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said.
However, it is Concordia’s commitment to the ELCA that has prevented the Remedy from becoming a student organization so far.
“[The ELCA] is a church that is highly respectful of all God’s people… We really do understand ourselves as a community of faith that’s diverse and very respectful,” Megorden said. “One of the places where we struggle as campus pastors here are organizations who are convinced that their point of view is the only point of view.”
According to Puro, the Remedy preaches the perfect truth of the Bible—any other interpretation is discouraged. Megorden said that the group believes that to be a literal fundamentalist in terms of scripture is the only way to be faithful, and this is at odds with CMC’s position.
“That is just not Evangelical Lutheran Church of America,” he said.
Because they are not a student organization, the group is unable to find a room to meet in on a regular basis, which has been their largest obstacle lately. In November 2008, they began meeting in the Park Region lounge, but once attendance passed 60 people, Puro received an e-mail that they couldn’t use the lounge unless they reserved it first—and they couldn’t reserve it unless they were a student organization.
“Which I completely respect and understand,” Puro said.
So the Remedy began moving around. They met for a while in Birklund Alumni Lounge, but lately they’ve been alternating between Christiansen Recital Hall and large rehearsal rooms in Hvidsten Hall of Music. Every Monday afternoon, Puro tries to find a large room that is not reserved for the evening and then posts that night’s meeting place on Facebook. Attendees are informed by Facebook messages and word of mouth.
Anthony Eddleston, who has been attending the Remedy since it first began and usually helps lead worship by playing violin and singing, believes that this difficulty has had a few advantages, especially since rising numbers of attendees have forced them to find larger spaces.
“Once we get kicked out of a room and find a new one, it’s like we needed to find that room,” he said.
The Remedy is intended to be an “alternative” worship to those worship opportunities already provided on campus. It begins with around 30 minutes of acoustic music, and then a student gives a message about the Bible or their faith.
Puro always meets with the student speakers before the service to ensure that they are not going to give an inflammatory or disrespectful message. This is to maintain the Remedy’s signature of simplicity and focus.
“We don’t want it to get mixed up with all these theological, religious rules,” Puro said. “We just want Jesus Christ.”
After the message, students are split up into small, gender-based groups to pray. The service is conducted in the dark, with only PowerPoint slides for song lyrics and small lights for the musicians to read by. Many attendees find that this deepens their sense of focus.
“I feel that the Remedy offers the least distractions, which allows me to focus on God more,” said Marta Stolen, a sophomore who has also been attending the Remedy since it started.
The Remedy began as a small group of around five friends who would meet with a guitar and a packet of worship songs. They picked songs from the packet, sang for about an hour, and then left. At the end of spring 2009, they began having student speakers come. That was also when their group began to be too large for Park Region’s lounge to accommodate.
“It’s been pretty incredible, because it was a small group of friends who invited more friends,” Stolen said. “It just shows God is moving through campus.”
The role of student-led worship services is not something that has been ignored on campus, and CMC addresses this desire in the student body with their own student-led worship service: Sunday Night at East.
“It comes very much from the heart and life of students at Concordia, and their voice,” Pastor Tessa Moon-Leiseth said. “There’s something really unique about Sunday Night at East, to come really directly from students.”
However, Leiseth also said she understands that some students may want to design their own worship service around their own understanding of God without having to fit CMC’s expectations for a worship community.
“There’s something attractive…about grassroots,” she said. “When you’re grassroots, you don’t have institutional responsibilities.”
Even so, students who attend the Remedy believe the strong show of student support should be enough to sway the college to allow the Remedy to become a student organization.
“I think it’s kind of disappointing,” Stolen said, “because this is a Christian college and they should be supportive of Christian organizations.”
However, the college’s reasoning has been the grounds for refusing student organization applications to other groups on campus recently, including Campus Crusade for Christ and the Concordia Secularists. It has also led to some verbal hostility between the groups, which Puro hopes to quell.
“The pastors have been very generous,” she said. “I think they have the power to completely shut us down, but they haven’t.”
Still, Eddleston believes the service won’t disappear any time soon. Even if it doesn’t survive as “The Remedy,” a non-denominational worship service on campus is likely to be started again by another group with similar concerns.
“I’ve heard stories this year about people in the past who’ve done things like this,” Eddleston said. “It seems like a constant thing.”
I am a senior English writing major and political science minor at Concordia College, but I originally hail from Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a deep passion for humanitarian aid and the power of the written word. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of the 2011-2012 Concordian, though on occasion I also write and take pictures.
Dream job: hybrid freelance journalist/human rights lawyer.