On an average day at Piedmont College, students pass the Office of the Campus Minister on the third floor of Daniel Hall. The door is usually open as students go to and from class. Some may even notice the “Free Coffee” sign on the student worker desk.
“The Coffee Ministry is highly regarded,” said Laura Alyssa Platé, a sophomore History and Religion/Philosophy double major and student worker.
The Office of the Campus Minister is coordinated by Rev. Tim Garvin-Leighton, affectionately known as Rev. Tim. As the Campus Minister, he is involved in convocation, baccalaureate, and commencement, as well as other programs around campus, such as the Adopt a Child Christmas Program, the 9/11 Memorial Service, and Ash Wednesday. Rev. Tim has also been asked to speak at events in the dorms and during student-led Bible studies. However, he believes there’s more to his job than events.
“We have a counseling service, which many students access and use, but Dawson and Evonne often refer students to me that have spiritual crises,” said Rev. Tim, “and I’m able to connect to the students, faculty, and staff in a way that Evonne and Dawson can’t around those issues, and I think that’s really important.”
This led to Rev. Tim and the student workers in the Office of the Campus Minister to foster a drop-in atmosphere. Student workers like Platé bring in puzzles that anyone visiting the office can work on to de-stress. They also make sure the espresso machine is turned on each morning.
“I feel like every department has their own version, and I’ve sampled the coffee offered just about everywhere on campus, but the Campus Ministry coffee is the best,” said Hadley Cottingham, a sophomore English major. “It’s a great place to vent. Rev. Tim is such a great person, and the student workers there are great people. I always feel like I can just unload there.”
However, Rev. Tim believes the Office of the Campus Minister is under-utilized, and that few students know about it despite its central location and the events around campus the office is involved in.
“We project and present this sort of drop-in model, having the coffee and doing puzzles, those kind of things. Students that know about that access it,” said Rev. Tim, “but I think a lot of students don’t really believe that’s the case, that they really can just drop in, or maybe they don’t understand what that means, so I wish there was a way to foster that sense more.”
Platé said she began working in the Office of the Campus Minister because she was hanging out there anyway, and said “It’s a good place to work and be.” Cottingham believes the office is an important resource.
“People need an outlet to talk about their faith, and the campus ministry is a really good place for it. Rev. Tim is such a kind and open-minded person, it’s really refreshing to be able to talk about those big questions you have towards religion and not be judged for it,” said Cottingham. “I’ve had a lot of questions about God and a lot of anger towards religion in the past few years, and the campus ministry has given me a safe place to figure stuff out.”
Platé also spoke on the importance of the office.
“There’s a lot of great resources that we have in here that students just don’t know about. That can be we have free coffee, and some students don’t realize that to we have people that are willing to talk to you in stressful times,” said Platé, “it’s not as daunting as going into Lane Hall and meeting with a counselor.”
The Office of the Campus Minister launched social media this year, as well as a Vespers service on Sunday evenings. In the fall, it will start a Care Cabinet with hygiene products and school supplies for students who are struggling financially. The Adopt a Child Christmas program has grown since Rev. Tim started working at Piedmont in 2016.
“I want to promote that just because yes, I’m a Christian pastor, yes, the Campus Ministry is sort of intentionally Christian because of our historic connections to the Christian church, but I don’t want people to see me as just the Christian Campus Minister,” said Rev. Tim. “We have more that Christian students at Piedmont. I want people to see that we understand that religious diversity, not just of our campus, but of broader society.”