The Collegian
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Students push for UR recognition of an evangelical Christian group, Cru

<p>Cru members (from top left to bottom right) Ephraim Kang, Gavin Foo, Nate Lyell, Nick Yamasaki, Margaret Grigsby, Esther Helm, Peyton Annoni and Faith Pinckney after an intramural volleyball game.&nbsp;</p>

Cru members (from top left to bottom right) Ephraim Kang, Gavin Foo, Nate Lyell, Nick Yamasaki, Margaret Grigsby, Esther Helm, Peyton Annoni and Faith Pinckney after an intramural volleyball game. 

University of Richmond students are involved in the Metro Richmond branch of Cru, an international, interdenominational evangelical Christian group, even though it is not a recognized religious group at UR.

Students and Cru staff members meet for open Bible study on Wednesdays at the Richmond Center for Christian Study, located on River Road. In addition, UR students do larger meetings with RVA Cru, which includes Virginia Commonwealth University students, monthly. 

"Our purpose is helping to fulfill the Great Commission in the power of the Holy Spirit by winning people to faith in Jesus Christ, building them in their faith and sending them to win and build others and helping the body of Christ to do evangelism and discipleship in a variety of creative ways," according to Cru's website. Cru has 5,300 campus ministries in 125 countries, according to its website. 

Junior Faith Pinckney discovered Cru through a Facebook advertisement.

“After learning about Cru more, I wanted to have that kind of community, because freshman year I felt like I didn’t really fit in with any of the Christian groups on campus,” Pinckney said.

According to Pinckney, there are around 9-12 UR students who regularly attend the meetings. 

"There are some students who are active in the chat, but haven't been able to attend due to being abroad or class conflicts," she said. 

In addition to the weekly Bible study at the study center, the Metro Richmond Cru branch also consists of "Greek Cru" for students in Greek life, men's Bible study on Thursdays and "Bridges" for international students, which are both held near VCU, Pinckney said.

There is also a women's Bible study that is held throughout the Metro Richmond area, she said. 

"All of the studies are open to college-aged students, but the student center has mostly just UR students," Pinckney said. "There is one online college student who attends sometimes."

Senior Will Alpaugh, who leads a Cru men's Bible study in Tyler Hanes Commons, also chose to join Cru over other on-campus Christian groups. He joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship his freshman year but left second semester of his junior year because of value differences, Alpaugh said. 

The weekly Bible studies started in the fall semester of 2019 and consist of three Cru staff members and UR students. 

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“A big part of what Cru does is train students to know how to talk to people about Christianity and their faith and beliefs and to have open, honest and truthful conversations,” Alpaugh said.

Brandon Spurlock is the team leader for Metro Richmond Cru and its 10 full-time staff members.

“My family moved to Richmond in 2013 to help re-start Cru in the area, specifically for the eight campuses in the area,” Spurlock said. “Cru is on most major universities and colleges around Virginia, but had not been in the Richmond area in over 20 years.”

Pinckney has tried to get the group recognized by UR since November 2018, but The Chaplaincy denied the request.

“I met with the chaplain, and you can’t start a religious organization, even if it's student led, unless the chaplaincy finds a need for it," Pinckney said. "So we were told that [even] if we have a Bible study staff, we wouldn’t be allowed on campus. We’re planning on following up and we’re hoping because of the amount of students we’ve had, it will be allowed.” 

Rev. Craig Kocher, university chaplain, addressed the decision to not recognize Cru.

“The Office of the Chaplaincy seeks to meet the religious needs of students, and when we already have existing campus ministries serving students, it’s important to encourage those ministries,” he wrote in an email statement. “Additionally, we want to avoid putting similar religious communities in competition with each other. 

"We currently have many Christian communities who do wonderful work on campus, and I always welcome conversations with students who want to explore their faith and discern how they might find a place within the religious ecology of the university.” 

Cru had an official on-campus presence at UR from 1990-1994.  

Frank Allen, director of employer relations and 1994 UR graduate, was a member of Cru for all four years of his time at UR.

UR's chapter of Cru disbanded in 1994 because the Cru staff member designated for UR's campus, David Patchin, was promoted within Cru, and his position was not replaced, Allen said.

“Instead of having one person at every university, the organization decided they were going to have a critical mass at the largest universities,” Allen said. “Effectively what they decided was that UR wasn’t big enough.”

Because the group isn’t currently affiliated with UR, its members can’t table or hold events for it on campus, but members are invited to participate with the organization on a more national scale, including through attending the organization’s regional winter conference. 

Pinckney attended both the 2018 and 2019 winter conferences in Baltimore. 

“Students from differing universities, like VCU, UPenn, Cornell, come together,” she said. “[It’s] just a cool gathering for you to meet other college students as well as learn about opportunities Cru has.”

Students involved with Cru have also formed intramural teams that compete against other campus clubs and organizations. 

“The goal is obviously to have a welcome space on campus and that way we’d be able to have the support and funding to put on Cru events at UR,” Pinckney said. “But I think until we have that official status, it’ll be more word of mouth to have things outside of just the Bible study. There are so many differing ideas and resources that Cru has that we would love to be able to more openly share with the rest of the campus.” 

Cru has transitioned into having its Bible studies on Zoom because of COVID-19, Pinckney said. 

Contact news writer Meredith Moran at meredith.moran@richmond.edu.

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