Largest Refuge Gathering Ever Kicks Off Academic Year
Refuge is developing as a defining part of King’s student life in a new year with a new team. The kick-off event on the evening of Thursday, August 25th was the largest Refuge gathering in King’s history. The evening was energized by the new leadership of this year’s Refuge President, Sophomore Grace Karls ('19), and a bold challenge to the student body from our celebrated Vice-President of Student Development, Eric Bennett.
“I can see that her heart is really in it,” Refuge band-member and former president Mathew Salavitch ('17) said. “She really cares about the student body and she cares about creating a great worship experience. She’s totally sold.”
This is Refuge’s fourth year as a student organization. With Karls' new energy and leadership, Salavitch hopes to see Refuge have another good year and continue to be “solidified as a part of student life.”
The goal of Refuge, in the words of Karls, is quite simply, “to provide a refuge for students, a community where people are encouraging, where students can just be with people who are smart and still believe in Christianity. It's significant because New York can feel really hostile and dismissive of Christianity.”
The goal is beginning to be realized this school year. Whether for the chance to worship, the chance to hear from Eric Bennett, or the incentive of Insomnia Cookies, 179 students came out to Refuge on the first week of school, which was a significant milestone for the Refuge team.
“It was the most people I have ever seen at Refuge. We had to put chairs all the way to the back of the room and along the sides,” Salavitch said.
VP Bennett delivered the message for the evening, which was an arresting call to the student body based on 2 Chronicles 15:14, to “seek the Lord with loud acclamation.” He challenged the students to sign a banner with the passage, as a public and communal commitment to seek the Lord throughout this school year. This banner can be seen displayed on campus full of messy bold sharpie signatures that were collected that evening by the students who decided to make this public commitment.
When Bennett first told Karls his plans for this message, she was excited for such a challenge.
“I thought it was really cool,” Karls said. “My first thought was that this is different than anything we’ve ever done. It’s really good because it gives people accountability and unites the student body.”
Tanner Sanderford ('20), who was in attendance at the monumental Refuge, felt similarly.
“Eric’s talk inspired me to get involved. I realized I had to make time for God because it’s really true that in the grand scheme of things, everything else should come secondary," Sanderford noted.
Sanderford plans to act on his commitment to seek the Lord primarily through intentional involvement in a local church, but this commitment can take many forms, whether it be recommitting ourselves to personal devotions, prayer or seeking Christian community through House Bible studies, church small groups, and even Refuge itself.
By providing the chance to make a public commitment, Bennett focused the perspective on the communal, rather than the individual level of faith.
“Everybody who came to refuge committed to the same thing so its like we are all working together towards the same goal," Karls added.
The following Tuesday evening, Refuge led a “Prayer in the Park” event, which gave students the opportunity to go to Battery Park, take some time to be quiet and pray for the King’s community.
“It was a perfect follow-up to the first Refuge,” Sanderford said. “After making the commitment to seek the Lord, the prayer meeting helped me realize that even though I’m in New York where its easy to get cynical, there are Christians here, and God’s still doing work here. It’s good to step back, see the big picture and know that good things are happening here.”
Refuge’s role in the life of the school was also apparent at Fall Retreat. The band lead the whole school in times of worship. Eric Bennett spoke to the student body again, and he harkened back to his message from the First Refuge, tying it in to the Fall Retreat and Interregnum themes of service and equality. Bennett called the student body to “seek the Lord by not grasping after equality for ourselves, but by serving, by laying down ourselves for others, and loving each other in real and tangible and quiet ways, like Jesus did.”
Refuge gatherings are bigger than just the band, it is an outlet for fellowship, growth, and worship for the entire King’s community. It has a unique and central role in the life of the college.
“Refuge gives you an opportunity to fellowship in a way that you don’t get in other settings. It’s different from House bible studies or church groups because you get to fellowship with other cool people in the student body and it’s not limited to a particular friend group or House," Salavitch noted.
Karls also believes that the best thing about Refuge is the people.
“The people, I mean those who attend as well as the speakers, are awesome.” Karls said. “There are so many King’s faculty, staff, and students praying for Refuge. Since it’s a communal thing, it’s a good way to sense the bigger picture of the King’s Community.”