‘YPCA’ Celebrates 85 Years of Ministry, Service

Nearly 250 people – current students, former members, local church members gathered to celebrate 85 years of ministry, service and outreach through the Young People’s Christian Association Saturday, Oct. 14, at Eastern Mennonite University.

YPCA Quartet
The Crusaders Quartet remembered how to get the most out of singing around one microphone during a “reliving radio” segment at a celebration of 85 years of Young Peoples Christian Association at EMU (l. to r.): Aaron King, Eugene Souder, Paul Swarr, Roy Kreider. Photo by Matt Styer

The gathering – part of homecoming and family weekend – was emceed by John R. Martin, YPCA president in 1953 and ’54. Among many other facts, he noted that the “Y,” as it is affectionately known, is the longest running student-led group in the school’s history.

“Perhaps at this anniversary celebration it behooves us to ask ‘Why?’ of the Y,” noted Carmen Schrock-Hurst, YPCA co-president 1980-81. “Why,” she wondered, “when there is pressure to study and work to pay the tuition bills, and infinite opportunities to socialize and participate in extra- curricular activities – why do students consistently continue to chose to give of their time and money to keep alive the Y?”

Belief in God’s Word

The answer, she said, is at the heart of what makes EMU unique: a belief in God’s word and the call to find one’s life by losing it. Y participants have exemplified and continue to model the “desire to have education be rooted in the real world and not tucked away in an ivory tower of isolationism,” she said.

Special among the invited guests were representatives at each table from area congregations known as “Y churches,” that is, churches started and/or sustained by participation of YPCA students over the years.

Noted author and speaker David Augsburger, shared how participation in YPCA in the late 1950s helped to form and shape him, and others, for later ministry. Currently a professor of pastoral care at Fuller Theological Seminary, he recalled a formative lesson in pastoral care that he learned through a YPCA contact.

He recalled a walk around a country block in the cold rain with a man from his Y church whose wife had recently died. “I felt ashamed,” Augsburger recalled, “because I could find no words to offer the grieving man. But I came to realize it was enough to simply walk with him, soaked to the bones, in silence.”

‘Sincere desire to serve the church’

“The shape and focus of YPCA has been remolded from time to time, but the sincere desire to serve the church and others in the name of Jesus remains firm,” reflected campus pastor Brian Martin Burkholder after the event. “Students involved in the current YPCA commissions are expressing their faith in passionate ministry, service and outreach.”

Current Y commissions, or programs, include: Saturday adoption, grandparent adoption, prison ministries team, Y-church teams, and spring break Y-trips. More information about them is available on the campus ministries section of EMU’s website, www.emu.edu.

Copies of an eight-page, full-color booklet about YPCA’s 50 years is available on request while supplies last from alumni@emu.edu.