Pastor helps students explore faith issues at EWU

Rev. Shelley Wee leads the Lutheran Campus Ministry at EWU.
Rev. Shelley Wee leads the Lutheran Campus Ministry at EWU.

CHENEY — Can you take a prayer back?

Why do some churches use grape juice for communion?

Was Jesus married? Does it matter?

The Rev. Shelley Wee explores questions like this every Monday evening with a group of students at Eastern Washington University, where she leads the Lutheran Campus Ministry.

She’s one of three campus ministers supported by the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and is the only one fully funded — though her budget’s been cut significantly over the years.

“It’s sad,” she said, “because I think we provide something that is needed on campus. We preach a loving, open and affirming gospel that’s welcoming to all people.”

But despite budget cuts Wee’s managed to get funding from area churches, friends of the ministry and alumni.

“For me, she’s by far the most successful of our campus ministers in the ELCA,” said Rev. Eric Ohrtman of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Colville. “She’ under-supported by the synod, is raising her own dollars and she still manages to put on this campus ministry, all the while being a mom, a wife and a cancer survivor.”

A cross with candles sits in the center of the Lutheran Campus Ministry gathering.
A cross with candles sits in the center of the Lutheran Campus Ministry gathering.

Two years ago Wee, 46, was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer, which is a type of cancer that can’t be treated like hormone-positive cancers. After radiation, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, Wee is doing well and using her experience to minister to her students.

She said several of her students have watched their parents or loved ones struggle with cancer and now she’s able to journey with them.

Her students, she added, were part of what helped her through her illness.

She said the courage young adults have to explore and question theological issues is inspiring. Plus, she said, they’re just fun to be around.

Every week following the worship program, the group eats dinner together (the students take turns cooking).

Though it’s a Lutheran ministry, hosted at Immanuel Lutheran Church of Cheney, Wee said students from a variety of faith backgrounds come to the group.

“We have all kinds of Christians, from Baptists to Evangelicals to Lutherans to Catholics and Mormons to those who maybe it’s their first time hearing anything at all,” she said. “It’s really a great group of students who wouldn’t necessarily all attend worship on Sunday together.”

Senior David Ediger, for example, was raised in the Vineyard church. He’s been coming to the Lutheran Campus Ministry for about two years because he likes the interfaith perspective and the small group size.

“It’s good to bring people together and to have community. And I like it because it’s small so it’s easy for people to come in and join in,” he said.

The group meets Mondays at 5 p.m. at Immanuel. For information call (509) 928-7887.

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