It was like a frosh week pub crawl, but without the drinking and bar-hopping.
About 80 University of Ottawa students fanned out in teams from the Jock Turcot Building on the University of Ottawa campus September 9 to launch the fifth annual church crawl.
But not before praying for millions of people in the direct line of Hurricane Irma as it bore down on the Caribbean islands and Florida.
“We pray, Lord, for those who are experiencing deep distress because of Hurricane Irma, and pray for those who are hunkered down and those who are displaced,” said Christian Reformed Campus chaplain Sid Ypma in leading the prayer.
“We ask that you would meet them in this place of trouble and distress and that you will be there, God, and that you would do what only you can do in bringing peace and restoration.”
After briefing the students on the rules of the church crawl, Ypma gave the go signal and the students charged out of the university building, “passports” in hand, to visit participating area churches. Each team was required to collect signatures, stamps and stickers along the route and return to home base quickly where a winner could be determined.
The passports also contained information about the nine churches involved in the crawl, which included two Anglican churches, St. Alban the Martyr and St. John the Evangelist. Other church communities that took part in the event this year were Baptist, Presbyterian, Eastern United, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and All Nations.
Ypma told the students the passports also contained information about other churches that also support the crawl. They “support you and are interested in being a support to your faith life via the University of Ottawa or if you’re just looking to explore faith,” he said.
The Rev. Mark Whittall, incumbent at St. Alban’s, was part of the church and campus ministry groups’ planning team that came up with the idea of the church crawl more than five years ago.
“We thought, ‘What sort of thing can we put on that would be good for the students and help them get to know us?’ ” he said in an interview. “And this is what we came up with.”
Before the crawl began, students arriving at the university seemed to be taking a long time to connect with churches, said Whittall. “And so, we thought if we show all the churches in one night, they’d know where we are, they’d feel welcome and maybe they would come back on Sundays if that’s what they chose to do.”
The idea has worked out really well, he said. “It [the church crawl] is part of the way we welcome students in the fall.”
The planning team was comprised of members from a variety of Christian communities, said Whittall. “It was a great opportunity not only for students to find all the churches, but for all the churches and campus groups to learn how to work together.”
Allie McDougall, pastoral associate and campus minister at St. Alban’s, represented the parish as a member of the crawl’s planning board. “The church crawl is a really excellent opportunity for churches across the spectrum to support each other and to promote one another,” she said in an interview. “It’s not a competition. We’re not trying to outdo each other.”
The churches simply want to help students find the parish that fits their needs and their interests, McDougall said. “It’s a team effort and it’s a great example of the family of God working together.”
For the participating students, the church crawls are “just a lot of fun and a great way to meet other Christian students,” she said. “Our parishioners like participating because it’s a great way to meet people and make them feel welcome in the city.”
The church crawl ended back at the university with the awarding of small prizes to the winning teams and a worship ceremony.
The welcoming of new and returning university students continued at St. Alban’s the following day with the parish hosting an outdoor barbecue after the morning service.
Editor’s note: An incorrect second photo was used and has been changed.