After more than two decades, the University Church of Christ Campus Ministry decided last semester to discontinue the Sunday night Nine O’clock service.
The service took place weekly during the school year. Nine O’Clock usually included a time of singing, a brief devotional, communion, prayer and fellowship.
Ben Fike, UCC campus minister said the decision to end the time of worship was made for several reasons. He said Nine O’clock has been a good ministry for the past 23 years.
“It’s been in decline, attendance-wise, since 2003 or 2004,” he said. “There’s been some kind of variation with that throughout the years but really over the last few years.”
He said attendance for last semester averaged about 80-100 people a week. The service was moved from the auditorium to the chapel to accommodate the smaller numbers.
“Clearing out Nine O’Clock really more to do with clearing space on Sunday evening for building something new,” Fike said.
Laura Eastman, UCC campus ministy intern, said the church is planning for a new sort of gathering on Sundays.
She said when Nine O’Clock was created, it was unique and one of the only options outside of ACU for spiritual coordination.
Nine O’Clock was started by the UCC campus minister, Wayne Barnard, in 1990. The service originally met in Chapel on the Hill, then moved to UCC when it outgrew the chapel.
Fike said they are hoping to build a central gathering point for the Campus Ministry that focuses on deepening relationships within the group and with Jesus. He said they also want to find a point in Abilene that becomes a mission point to focus on, as well as a point outside Abilene.
“Part of the genius of Nine O’Clock and why it worked well, but also why ultimately its time has passed, is it really encourages anonymity,” Fike said. “It’s a safe space for people to come in, and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you just come and worship God.”
He said as students struggle with the idea of belonging to a spiritual community a greater level of commitment is required. Eastman and Fike said the new program will be a safe place, but will also require more vulnerability and engagement.
The Campus Ministry’s new program, “The Dwelling Place,” will launch Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. in room 503 of the Ministry Activity Center at UCC. It will include a meal, worship and breakout discussion groups.
“Rather than being a destination, it will be a gathering point for a community of students dedicated to following Jesus together throughout the week,” Fike said. “We will eat together, worship God together, share communion together and discuss different virtues and practices to help us share our faith together throughout the week.”