R.U.F: An on-campus ministry with open doors

R.U.F. is one of the only Christian ministries on campus that welcomes people of all faiths to come in and share their stories to find spiritual healing.

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R.U.F: An on-campus ministry with open doors

Vanderbilt's Benton Chapel  hosts a number of R.U.F.'s weekly events.

Vanderbilt's Benton Chapel hosts a number of R.U.F.'s weekly events.

Taylor Darnell

Vanderbilt's Benton Chapel hosts a number of R.U.F.'s weekly events.

Taylor Darnell

Taylor Darnell

Vanderbilt's Benton Chapel hosts a number of R.U.F.'s weekly events.

Krista Panageas

You may have noticed the growing presence of the green, yellow and blue pastel R.U.F. shirts circling campus this fall and, like me, wondered what this initiative was all about.

R.U.F., which stands for Reformed University Fellowship, is a Christian student organization that is inclusive of people of all faiths and denominations. Their primary goal is to provide not only a Christian ministry, but a support system and welcoming community for all students on campus. The mission statement on the R.U.F. Vanderbilt website sums up their message of inclusivity, welcoming “the lost, the found, the burned, bored, cynical, or spiritual.”

R.U.F hosts three weekly events. On Mondays, bible study for first-years is hosted by three adults interns who serve as a resource for students and facilitate the activities. On Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m., Pastor Richie Sessions leads a sermon at Benton Chapel on campus which is open to all students. On Sundays, there are small group meetings for those who are interested in personal support, guidance and mentorship in both their spiritual and day-to-day lives. Retreats and other events are also hosted periodically throughout the semester.

Junior Carmella Quintos, an active member of R.U.F., values how the organization has served as an important community for her on campus. 

“R.U.F. has given me the space to meet people in other grades, take a step back from the stresses on campus, and have rewarding and fulfilling spiritual experiences,” she said. “It was a welcoming experience that made me feel totally at home and more comfortable on campus from freshman year on.”

R.U.F.’s distinct pastel t-shirts are sported by student members of the organization around campus.

Pastor Sessions, who students know as Richie, plays an essential role in creating R.U.F.’s supportive and open environment. He laughs, jokes and socializes with students before the sermons. 

“I have a lofty goal of creating a place where students can really connect with one another, walking out of shame, in ways they otherwise would never have the opportunity to do. I want to see my students be fully alive,” Sessions said. 

Abby Minton, a sophomore involved in R.U.F., describes Pastor Sessions’ influence as more than spiritual guidance. 

“He’s like a crazy uncle who shapes the community in an integral way,” she said. “He has helped me reconcile what faith looks like in college, teaching me how to be both a Christian in my everyday interactions and experience everything Vanderbilt has to offer.” 

I was curious enough to go to a R.U.F. meeting myself, and from my experience, the open-armed embrace that the organization promotes is not superficial. After attending the Wednesday night sermon, I left with a feeling of renewal. It was led by Pastor Sessions and was completely catered to the stresses and needs of his audience. He encouraged students to approach the obstacles they face not as roadblocks but as a part of our journey, which was a unique perspective on the Christian faith. It largely focused on the growth and development of students and people in general to be their kindest and happiest selves. 

R.U.F. encourages people from all backgrounds and histories to come to their Wednesday sermons where newbees, like myself, can see how the organization serves as a resource beyond the Christian community– offering much more than just comfy pastel shirts. 

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