New Christian ministry center to open

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Photo by Kathryn Crandall.

On April 26, Christian Union, a national faith-based organization that exists at seven Ivy League universities and came to Yale in 2010, will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Christian ministry center on 31 Whitney Ave.

The ministry center — named in honor of abolitionist James W.C. Pennington — will serve as a meeting space for Christian students and help facilitate Christian Union activities such as Bible studies, leadership training and prayer groups. Saturday’s ribbon-cutting event will include a tour of the new facility and a reception for students, donors and Christian Union representatives. Since the space was purchased by Christian Union in January, it has been used temporarily as an office space for the group and has also undergone renovations, according to Chris Matthews, director of Christian Union’s undergraduate ministry at Yale.

“As we are growing, we need a reliable space where we can meet and host events,” said Josh Ginsborg ’16, president of Yale Faith and Action, the official undergraduate chapter of Christian Union. “It will be a gathering point where we can come together for Bible study or hang out at night.”

Ginsborg said the ministry center will be a place where students can congregate and work on projects. He said he is particularly excited to have access to the center’s kitchen, since the organization often distributes baked goods to students through its “campus kindness” initiatives.

The event will also serve as an opportunity to recognize the Pennington’s life, Matthews said. Pennington, the first African-American to take classes at Yale, became a prominent figure in the New York abolitionist movement. His character embodies the type of faith and leadership Christian Union hopes to promote on campus, Matthews said.

Matthews said funds for the project were raised through private donations to Christian Union, noting that a large portion came from Yale alumni or donors affiliated with the University.

Matthews also noted that the center plans to expand the first floor of the building — which is currently being leased to a tenant — into a reception space for all Christian groups on campus. The exact date of the lease’s expiration is in the process of being settled, he added.

“I am very much looking forward for it to be set up since it will be a good place for students to get away from campus for a bit,” said Emily Poirier ’15, former Yale Faith and Action vice president. “It is rare at Yale to interact with professors who aren’t grading you, but now you can go there and spend an hour talking and drinking coffee.”

The proximity of the building to campus is ideal since it is closer to most students than the Student Financial Services or Undergraduate Career Services buildings, Poirier added.

Before moving to the new location on Whitney Avenue, Matthews said, Christian Union previously rented office space at 59 Elm St.

“The new center joins a remarkable variety of off-campus and on-campus religious facilities for Yale students, such as the new Chabad Center,” Pastor of the University Church and Senior Associate Chaplain Ian Buckner Oliver wrote in an email.

Oliver noted that Christian Union has no formal ties to the Chaplain’s Office and is not a member of Yale Religious Ministries. Still, he said, the Chaplain’s Office has regular contact with Christian Union through students who are involved in Yale Faith and Action.

Though the ribbon-cutting will occur at the same time as Spring Fling on Old Campus, Ginsborg said, he hopes for many students to attend. He plans to offer a public testimony to express the ways in which his Christian faith has influenced his Yale experience.

“It will be a really exciting day, and God has really blessed us in allowing to have this space,” Poirier said.

The building’s history spans many centuries: It was built in the 1850s on Elm Street, before being moved on rails in the 1970s to its current Whitney Avenue location, Matthews said.

Yale’s will be the fourth ministry center operated by Christian Union, which also runs centers at Brown, Cornell and Princeton.

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