Presbyterians Today

AUG-SEP 2018

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COMMUNITIES MOVED BY THE SPIRIT 12 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay Students envision a healthier community College coffeehouse provides safe space for race conversation BY PAUL SEEBECK they wouldn't truly be able to listen and celebrate each other, or their differences, until they recognized each other's humanity. According to enrollment data, Cal Poly is the "whitest public university" in the state. Nearly 55 percent of the 20,000 students are white, 16.7 percent are Latino and less than 1 percent are black. For the first time, many Cal Poly students were coming to grips with "white privilege," which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as "the fact of people with white skin having advantages in society that other people do not have." "So many people don't under- stand how huge this issue is in our country," Drenckpohl said. "More and more students at Front Porch are saying, 'I need to care and learn about this.' " Drenckpohl says it isn't just the W hen racially insensitive photos surfaced at Cal Poly University in the spring, Front Porch, a coffeehouse and 1001 worshiping community in San Luis Obispo, California, began engaging students — many of whom were disgusted by what they saw. An Instagram photo showed Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity members flashing gang signs while dressed as gangster stereo- types. In another photo, a student was in blackface. Ten days later, another photo surfaced of Sigma Nu members holding Corona bottles and wearing clothes that appar- ently were meant to impersonate Hispanics. Front Porch, which is owned by Santa Barbara Presbytery, is next to the entrance of Cal Poly. Thousands of students walk by Front Porch every day, with some 500 dropping in for free coffee and conversation. "We became the place for students to process and grieve," said Front Porch ministries director Joel Drenckpohl. Those discussions spilled over to Wednesday nights, where more than 250 students came together for a meal. The only requirement was that they get to know each other and discuss hard topics. As the conversations about race deepened, the students began to grasp that African-American community on campus that feels as if they're not known, or being heard, but also the Latino community — and those in other categories. With Drenckpohl being invited into a wider university conversation regarding the future of spiritual- ity on Cal Poly's campus, Front Porch is beginning to dream about how they might further influence the campus to become a healthier community. Opened as a state-of-the-art ministry facility in 2004, it was originally envisioned as a place where students at Cal Poly who identified as Christians could create community with Presbyterians. It even had living quarters — the hope was a Christian worldview would be grown by wrestling with the big ideas of faith. But when Drenckpohl arrived at Front Porch The gospel should never be just for Christians. It should benefit everyone — regardless of whether they're going to build their lives around it or not. — Joel Drenckpohl

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