Laticia Scriven with Students
The Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven (far left) and Impact@FAMU students after a Bible study. (IMPACT@FAMU photo)

October 31, 2020

FAMU Wesley Foundation continues rebirth in new home

By: Suzanne McGovern

Renewed Enthusiams
After a shutdown six years ago, the Wesley Foundation at FAMU is back with renewed energy and enthusiasm. A Development Fund loan from the foundation will enable the ministry to reach out to the campus community from its new home by next fall. (IMPACT@FAMU photo)

When the Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven arrived in Tallahassee as a visiting professor of mathematics at Florida A&M University (FAMU), she was looking forward to checking out the school’s United Methodist campus ministry.

To her surprise, the Wesley Foundation had closed in late 2014.

Scriven, who received her Master of Divinity degree from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta and declared her candidacy for ordination in the North Georgia Annual Conference, had strong ties to campus ministry as an undergraduate at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La., her hometown.

“I developed a love for campus ministry as an undergraduate, and I naturally gravitate to it,” she said. “In fact, I first felt called to ministry as a teenager, and throughout my academic and professional careers, I have worked in almost every phase of ministry, including campus ministry, church choir, Sunday school teacher, church secretary, worship leader, prayer leader and so forth.”

Scriven also has master’s degree in math education and a doctorate in educational administration from Purdue University.

“My professional identity was grounded in being a college math professor, but, intellectually, I was challenged by theology,” she said. “My brother and husband are ordained pastors in the Baptist tradition, and I wanted to be able to have deep theological discussions with them.”

Her husband would nudge her along, she said, by asking, “When will you move from being a professor who pastors, to being a pastor who is also a professor?”

“I often tell people that my call was like God calling Abram ‘to go to a new place I will show you,’” she said.

Revitalizing ministry

Sensing a need for a vibrant United Methodist campus ministry at FAMU, Scrivens talked with The Rev. Dr. Bob Gibbs, superintendent of the Florida Conference’s North West District at the time, about a relaunch.

The two began a series of conversations that changed Scriven’s life and the future of FAMU’s Wesley Foundation.

Gibbs told her the bishop would have to authorize the plan and she would need to research the level of interest. She did, starting with a feasibility study among her math students.

Through her surveys, she discovered a Wesleyan style of campus ministry could succeed at FAMU. She also developing a following.

“I invited my students to meet with me,” she said. “Sometimes we would worship or have Bible study together. Sometimes we would talk about our faith. Sometimes we would plan and think about our mission and vision.”

The small group began meeting in the library and then moved to the student activities center. Then, others started joining in.

“At first, it was just me inviting my math students, but soon the students began inviting their friends, and before long we were up to 20 to 25 regulars,” Scriven said. “And then, in no time, it grew to 40 to 50 regulars.”

By the summer of 2015, Scriven was named interim director of FAMU’s newly launched Wesley Foundation.

Discovering Wesleyan traditions

“I realized that most of my students were not familiar with the Wesley Foundation or The United Methodist Church,” Scriven said. “So, I decided to introduce them to United Methodist culture.”

That included forming ties with and visiting other Wesley Foundations across the state.

“Everything I have in my life is because of IMPACT. They were my family. They helped me discern my call. They allowed me to make mistakes in order to grow.” — Raymond Pandley II

“I took them on a trip to Atlanta where we visited a 2,000-member United Methodist Church with people who looked like them,” she said. “We went on retreats, and we attended Annual Conference so they could learn more about how The United Methodist Church operates.”

And while she was building a faith community on campus, Scriven relaunched her candidacy for ministry, but this time with the Florida Conference.

In the summer of 2016, she was commissioned a licensed local pastor and director at FAMU Wesley, all while retaining her FAMU teaching duties. She added interim pastor at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church in Tallahassee in 2018 and then senior pastor at New Life United Methodist church in Tallahassee in 2019 to her long list of responsibilities.

She was ordained an elder in full connection in September and reappointed to both the campus ministry and New Life church.

Finding a home

In June, the Florida Conference showed its confidence in the FAMU ministry when it applied for and received a Development Fund loan of $560,000 from the Florida United Methodist Foundation for campus ministry projects.

The conference purchased land, a house and a four-unit apartment complex across the street from the FAMU campus. The house will be renovated as the campus ministry’s new home, and the apartment complex will become student housing, providing income to help sustain the ministry.

It’s all being done under the campus ministry’s new name — IMPACT@FAMU Wesley Foundation.

Scriven says the new IMPACT House could not be in a better location.

“It is right across the street from an area where the university is building new residence halls,” she said. “It is accessible by foot for many students, including those without cars. One cannot walk to the new housing area without passing us.”

During construction of the new facilities, the planning team will set up a tent imprinted with the IMPACT logo nearby.

“It will be our temporary meeting and activity space,” Scriven said. “It will give us more visibility on campus, and, hopefully, help us continue to build community.”

Praying on Campus
IMPACT@FAMU Wesley Foundation students participate in a day and evening of prayer for the university’s students and professors. (IMPACT@FAMU photo)

Making an impact

The campus ministry’s new name was adopted as the mission statement during the planning process. It stands for “inspiring, motivating, preparing, and conscientiously transforming FAMU and the community with the love and teachings of Christ.”

It is central to everything the Wesley team does, and students recite it at the close of every gathering.

Thursday night Bible study is IMPACT Night. The new ministry headquarters will be IMPACT House. And the ministry is already making a statement on campus. It received FAMU’s Rattler Award as the best faith-based organization.

IMPACT’s effect on student lives is equally apparent.

Senior Tamara Fitzgerald of Quincy started her undergraduate career at Jacksonville University, but decided to return to her roots.

“I came back so I could give back,” she said.

In addition to being president and IMPACT’s assistant director, she is the junior-varsity girls’ basketball coach at Gadsden County High School where she was team captain for four years.

“IMPACT was a great find for me,” she said. “My prayer and spiritual life have grown so much. I have the freedom to serve and to be a spiritual person.”

Fitzgerald has also completed an internship at the Good Samaritan church and plans to work as a teacher for at least three years in order to save for medical school, where she’ll study to become a pediatrician.

Raymond Pandley II has also felt the campus ministry’s impact.

Pandley became committed to IMPACT when he joined the group on a trip to Atlanta. “I had a blast,” he said, “so I attended Bible study a few times, and next thing you know, I was hooked.”

“Our job is to go out into the world and make disciples for Christ, but it helps to have a home base. It will be a place where we can go to worship and to recharge our batteries. It gives us the fuel we need to embrace the future with hope.” — Rev. Dr. Latricia Scriven

“I especially enjoyed the spiritual conversations with my peers after our Thursday night Bible studies,” he added. “It strengthened our bonds with each other and with Christ. And it prepared me for the path I am on now.”

That path is ministry — as a military chaplain, pastor or possibly youth director, building on his internships as youth director at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Tallahassee. He begins classes at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., next year.

Both Fitzgerald and Pandley noted how fast the IMPACT ministry has grown and what the new building will add. “It will be life changing,” Pandley said. “It will make a night and day difference.”

Scriven agrees.

“There is something to having a place that is sacred and that can be called ‘yours,’” she said. “Our job is to go out into the world and make disciples for Christ, but it helps to have a home base. It will be a place where we can go to worship and to recharge our batteries.

“It gives us the fuel we need to embrace the future with hope.”

IMPACT@FAMU Wesley Foundation will move into its new building in late 2021.

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