Groundbreaking for U of A Wesley House set for April 12



The University of Arkansas Wesley College Ministry in Fayetteville will break ground on its 8,000-square-foot Wesley House at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12. The public is invited to attend.

Scheduled to open in January 2016, the building will be situated in the heart of the University of Arkansas campus, at 520 Lindell Avenue. The estimated $2 million facility will include a large gathering space, administrative and pastoral offices, catering kitchen and a lounge with comfortable chairs and sofas on the lower level, as well as small group rooms, chapel and a dormitory for four students on the upper level. Two exterior crosses from the previous U of A Wesley building are being incorporated into the new facility.

“We are so excited about being on campus and what that proximity will make possible in terms of interacting with students and being a part of their day-to-day lives,” said the Rev. Emily Burch, college pastor and director of the U of A Wesley, in a March 11 news release.

The Arkansas United Methodist reported in its Sept. 6, 2013 issue on the land swap deal with the University of Arkansas that made new construction possible for the U of A Wesley, which at that point had only a chapel with no office space, restrooms or breakout spaces. Since then, further investment by Central UMC Fayetteville and the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA) has increased the project’s scope.

Bishop Gary E. Mueller in 2014 asked Central UMC to oversee the Wesley Foundation as part of a new model for partnering strong local churches with campus ministries. Under the new arrangement, the Wesley Foundation campus pastor is a part of the Central pastoral staff, and Central provides administrative support for Wesley.

U of A Wesley has raised roughly $1.7 million toward the project. As part of that total, UMFA has awarded a $200,000 grant.

“I am grateful to the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas for supporting a new collaborative model of campus ministry with Central UMC at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville,” Mueller said in a March 17 news release from UMFA. “In a rapidly changing world, this investment by the Foundation will enable United Methodists to reach more students and, in the process, develop models that can positively impact all of our campus ministries.”

“We absolutely must give our best in order to provide effective ministry to the student population at this transition stage in their lives,” said Brian Swain, administrator for Central UMC Fayetteville. The church’s members have pledged approximately $1 million of the funding.

This year, U of A Wesley students have joined other Arkansas campus ministries and the U of A’s Council of Religious Organizations to make meaningful contributions to those in need, such as helping build and repair houses destroyed by last year’s tornadoes; packing more than 20,000 meals to help answer hunger in Northwest Arkansas; and building wheelchair ramps over Spring Break through the Texas Ramp Project, which provides ramps to veterans, senior citizens and physically challenged adults.