From "Interested" to "Active" - The RC Chapter at Regent University
From time to time, Ratio Christi's national Communications Team receives a request from a chapter leader who eagerly wants to share what is going on with their chapter and how it has progressed since its inception. We never say "no" to exciting chapter news!
This time, Chapter Director Enoch Charles of RC at Regent University shares his chapter's history with us:
“RC at Regent began in the summer of 2013. I contacted the late Rick Schenker (first president of Ratio Christi) after seeing an interview with him. RC's apologetics ministry resonated with me. I spoke with him and Blake Anderson (RC's former COO), about their interest to start campus apologetics at Regent University. Both Rick and Blake encouraged me to work with Ratio Christi as its chapter director. In the fall of that year, I had just begun working toward my PhD focusing on Christian apologetics at Regent’s School of Divinity. My wife, Stephanie, and I attended the annual Ratio Christi Symposium in October 2013. We received the prayers and encouragement of the RC leadership to start the chapter.
“Though serious attempts were made in Spring 2014, the chapter did not officially begin until August 2016. One key event that led to the actual formation of the chapter was when Michael Bossman, then the vice president of Ratio Christi, visited Regent during the National Day of Prayer Bus Tour in November 2015. Michael reached out and met with me, praying and encouraging me to trust God to bring the people together to start the chapter.
“The Lord heard that prayer of faith in a very miraculous way! Within the next week, I met with other Regent students -- Tao Tang, who is originally from China, Randy Plym, and Andy Thrasher. They were greatly interested in apologetics and willing to work on starting the Regent chapter. Andy, Randy, Tao, and I started meeting regularly throughout the spring semester of 2016 discussing apologetic material and praying together for the launch of the chapter. We decided on the leadership structure and the constitution (at most universities, clubs of all kinds that want recognition as campus groups must submit a constitution to the school administration). Dr. Michael Palmer, Professor of Philosophy at Regent School of Divinity, graciously agreed to be the faculty advisor and has been supporting and guiding the chapter since then."
We asked Enoch to share some more information about this very active, vibrant chapter:
Q: When did you begin formally meeting?
A: We began meeting weekly in the fall semester 2016 and have been fully operational since then.
Q: What do your chapter meetings look like?
A: We decided one of the core team members would give a thirty minute presentation on an apologetics topic of their choice, followed by a moderated thirty-minute question and answer time. The average attendance that school year was 10 to 12 people. Andy, Randy, and Tao did an excellent job in ensuring we had high quality content in our meetings along with spreading the word about Ratio Christi throughout the campus. On some evenings, we featured apologetic presentations from Dr. Palmer, our advisor, and many other Regent faculty members, who willingly supported us. One such event with Dr. Corné Bekker, the dean of the Divinity School, had up to 25 people attending.
Meetings like these helped to bring more visibility and attention to Ratio Christi on campus. Moreover, people who regularly come to our meetings state they have grown in their understanding of the faith and sharpened their skills in defending the Gospel while engaging a variety of religious and non-religious worldviews.
Q: Besides having students physically attend the events, how do you reach more of them?
A: Some events were Facebook Live and some are videos posted at the RC Regent Facebook page. We also use Regent campus communications like the university event calendar, chapel, newsletters, and we partner with student organizations like the Council of Graduate Students.
The Lord has continued to bless the events and weekly meetings in the 2017-18 season with good attendance. On at least six of the occasions when we had special speakers, attendance could range from 20 to 30 people. We rarely crossed the 20-person line in 2016-2017. Our chapter has generated a good and healthy amount of interest in Christian apologetics on campus. Though it is a Christian campus, more students are having the opportunity to get their minds stimulated on important issues of the Christian faith and are inspired to get equipped with the necessary tools and resources to defend the Gospel.”
(In April 2018, the chapter hosted “An Evening of Apologetics with Dr. Hugh Ross” and the gathering attracted approximately 35 people. Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross is the founder of Reasons to Believe, and also Regent University's Scientist-in-Residence.)
Q: Andy, Randy, and Tao graduated summer 2017 – do you have new chapter leaders?
A: A new set of leaders was elected in late spring 2017- Chris Ringler, Thomas Schoonbeck, and Sharon Mitchell. Like their predecessors, the new team is thoroughly committed and they worked closely with the outgoing leaders throughout the summer of 2017 to create a strong program schedule for fall 2017. Chris Ringler, the current student president, will soon be stepping into the role of chapter co-director and will serve with Dr. Palmer and myself in raising more Christian leaders as apologists. Chris is finishing his advanced masters in theology and getting ready for a doctoral program. He is a sound and competent apologist who has a real heart for the Lord and for people. He does an excellent job in putting together the schedule, coordinating with speakers and other team members, and leading discussions on complex topics. Regent is flexible about having alumni remain in leadership positions with campus clubs.
For the fall 2018 to 2019 season, Sharon and Thomas will continue their good work and will be joined by Andrea Francis.
Tao is now actively involved in a high school apologetics ministry that is already reaching a few Christian high school campuses in the Hampton Roads area. He is preparing to work closely with Ratio Christi’s College Prep program. Tao, after graduating with a dual masters degree in business and government, is pursuing a technology degree and also running a business that helps international students, especially Chinese students in the U.S.
Tao intends to keep touch with RC at Regent and sent us the following remarks:
“I will be around Virginia Beach in the next year, and I’m more than happy to continue to participate at Regent Ratio Christi and be a part of the continuation of the wonderful ministry that Enoch and Chris started on campus. I have been working with high school international students from overseas. Their minds are malleable and very curious about Christian apologetics. Often, they ask great questions that demand intelligent discussions. I believe Ratio Christi can benefit these students greatly and teach them how to examine difficult questions critically.”
(The leadership team are pictured in the photo above. Front L to R: Enoch Charles (Chapter Director), Dr. Michael Palmer (Faculty Advisor), Chris Ringler (President, 2017-18); Back L to R: Randy Plym (1st Vice President, 2016-17), Andy Thrasher (President, 2016-17), Tao Tang (2nd Vice President, 2016-17), and Thomas Schoonbeck (1st Vice President, 2017-18). Not present in the picture: Sharon Mitchell (2nd Vice President, 2017-18). See more photos at the end of the article.
Q: Let’s share with our readers the many thanks you wish to put out for the success of this chapter and the prayers you are requesting.
A: I’d like to thank Michael Bossman, who has kept in touch with the chapter leaders, encouraging and praying for them, and the entire Ratio Christi regional and national leadership team. We are thankful for the support we continue to receive from Drs. Michael Palmer, Uwe Scharf, Corné Bekker, and Mark Cartledge along with other Regent faculty and staff members, who help RC succeed and thrive to be all that the Lord would want it to be.
The RC team at Regent believes that the Lord has some new doors of opportunity ahead of them. We are asking the Lord to raise Christian leaders in our midst who will in turn go out to start Ratio Christi chapters in other public university campuses in the Hampton Roads area where there is a great need for apologetics ministry.
We've received glowing comments about this chapter from Michael Bossman, who is now RC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships:
“RC at Regent is a great story of prayer and effort by students who love the Lord and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit! Chris and Tao are both on my radar screen as future leaders (in college and high school respectively) because God has been working powerfully through them!”
And from Regional Director Lori Peters who presides over chapters in this portion of the Northeast:
"I am thrilled at the work God has done through these men and the strong chapter that is functioning at Regent. They have a wonderful faculty advisor and students committed to apologetics and the campus. Their work in expanding from Regent to Old Dominion and the local high school is a testimony to their commitment to the Kingdom." She continues,
We should never take for granted the need for RC at Christian campuses as every Christian should be prepared to give an answer for the hope within them. Given that Christian colleges vary in their required biblical and apologetic curriculum, many students may never have the opportunity to learn why they believe what they believe. This is where RC is critical on every campus regardless of whether it is secular or Christian."
To support the RC chapter at Regent University, click here. See more photos below.
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