When Maggie Ball and, a few years later, Jennifer Long, walked across the stage to graduate from Oklahoma City University, neither thought she would be back on campus one day, leading ministries there.
Flash forward to 2004, when Maggie was appointed to serve as vice president of University Church Relations. The following year, Jennifer arrived, to serve as director of Religious Life.
After years of wonderful ministry, both United Methodist clergywomen will leave these positions in June. Maggie will move into the retired relationship with the Oklahoma Conference. Jennifer is taking a sabbatical year to work on a Doctor of Ministry degree.
When asked the most fulfilling part of her work, Maggie immediately mentioned the opportunity to work with students in OCU’s Wimberly School of Religion. Many she first met as high school seniors now have graduated from both OCU and seminary; they are serving as colleagues in ministry.
"It is a privilege beyond measure to be a part of their journeys," Maggie said. Her work also helped students find scholarships that enabled them to attend OCU.
Maggie expressed appreciation for the supportive teamwork of staff in the University Church Relations department, providing quality, creative ministry to students. She is pleased by upgrades made to the chapel facilities, including new lighting and audio systems, more flexible seating in Harris Chapel, and reupholstered pew cushions in the sanctuary. And she was instrumental in replacement of the steeple after high winds snapped off the original one.
Jennifer was serving as associate pastor at Bartlesville-First UMC when the call came to serve at OCU. Her high energy, love of God, and pastoral presence were evident immediately. Her ministry has been all about connecting with students and enabling them to connect with God.
The Wednesday at the Wesley meal is an example of her leadership. Jennifer noticed some students working their way through college needed a place to eat and all needed good fellowship opportunities, so she created a ministry that met both needs. Each Wednesday the Religious Life interns, along with student volunteers, cook a simple lunch, open to everyone. It has grown from a few dozen people to as many as 300 in attendance.
Jennifer’s legacy will continue in "Love Not Hate" Day. Through her leadership, this started in 2009 when Westboro Baptist Church members planned to picket a theatrical performance on campus. Rather than confront the protesters, the Religious Life office produced 1,000 T-shirts imprinted with "Love Not Hate," to serve a silent witness. All the tees were distributed in 45 minutes! This celebration of love over hate continues each year, with an increasing number of campus groups involved.
Jennifer also points to the alternative gift market at Christmas time, student mission opportunities, and the weekly Evensong worship service as highlights for her.
"The way the students invite me into their lives in providing pastoral care has been the most incredible part of this journey for me," she said.
In June, Charles Neff will assume the post of vice president for University Church Relations and dean of the chapel. Rodney Newman, current university chaplain, will serve as director of Student Religious Life.
Return to contact digest