By Lauren Grimaldi
A blind couple stood among the sea of people marching with Standing Rock in Washington D.C. in early March. Their Uber driver struggled to find them someone to walk with. And in came members of the South Loop Campus Ministry (SLCM).
“This was a true and beautiful example of servant leadership,” said Reverend Ben Adams, recalling the moment. “It certainly made me proud to be their pastor.”
Driven to promote community service through faith, the downtown Chicago based group consists of chapters based in college campuses around the city.
Started in 2007, both the Lutheran and Episcopal churches wanted a way to engage the students now living downtown. Since then, the group has evolved in terms of membership and activities.
Reverend Adams has served as the pastor for SLCM since 2014. Guided by faith, he hopes to give members a positive view on issues in their community and beyond.
“Up against mounting student loans, many students lose hope in their future vocation, giving up on their passions for the job that will help them best pay their debt. As we watch bullies accumulate wealth and power, we might lose hope that love is what will ultimately win even though it’s not often regarded as strength or rewarded in our current society,” said Adams.
Eduardo Zagalsky, the president of the chapter at Roosevelt, said he first found out about the group through Alpha Phi Omega (APO). He began to participate in the group regularly because he felt good about the work he was doing participating in joint events between SLCM and APO. As president, Zagalsky has attempted to get more involved in SLCM, promoting it as not solely based on faith alone.
“I have created events designed away from religious associations to ease people into the church environment where we volunteer,” said Zagalsky. “I hope people can see that no matter who we are volunteering is a good thing to do for your fellow people and being scared of religious ties shouldn’t keep you away.”
Every year, SLCM goes on an immersion trip. In Oklahoma, the group learned about the Cherokee nation and the history of the Cherokee people. This year, SLCM traveled to Washington D.C. to learn about homelessness in the city. They also marched for Standing Rock, and roomed at a hostel with people from Pennsylvania.
“The most amazing part was meeting and hanging out with people from Pennsylvania who also stayed in the hostel with us,” said Zagalsky. “Everything was so beautiful and every second there was so powerful and moving.”
SLCM’s mantra, according to Reverend Adams is, “We don’t do charity, we do community.”
Their goal is to be an inclusive place for students of all backgrounds to practice their faith. As pastor, Adams says the group is open for any and all with no exceptions.
“For too long the church has said all are welcome without meaning it. When we say all are welcome, we mean all are welcome,” Adams said.
The reverend hopes that this community based organization will provide all with an outlet for helping others through faith in God.
“As a pastor I want to restore hope by embodying the love and grace of God as best I can for everyone I meet,” Adams said.