Progressive Christian Life
Immersants are great ways for ZOE campus ministry chapters to engage and recruit students,
drawing them into interaction through a multi-sensory experience. It is a uniquely creative form of “tabling” on the quad. Immersants include compelling visual, tactile, and auditory elements that stimulate curiosity and conversation, inviting students into the ZOE community.
ZOE Immersants give students an immediate taste of what makes ours a distinctive form of Christian
community on campus. They model values of radical hospitality, contemplative spiritual practice, religious and spiritual pluralism, and commitment to social justice.
The Church Confesses. This immersant consists of a portable “confessional” – a simple structure with a
lattice screen between two chairs. A campus ministry member sits in one of the chairs and invites
passers-by to sit in the chair on the other side of the lattice. The campus ministry member then recites a
short script, confessing the sins of the Christian church to the other student (homophobia, misogyny,
sexual abuse, religious exclusivism, hostility to science, racism, etc, etc), and asking forgiveness. This
can then lead to a conversation about how the campus ministry is committed to rectifying those sins
through its work and witness. Near the “confessional” is a board on which students can post stickers on
which they write the “sins” of Christianity, and then vote for which ones belong in the “top ten”.
Blessing Smart Phones. A big image of a smartphone, with a big question mark on its screen, catches
the eyes of students passing by. Next to it is a board where students can put sticky notes on which they
write the ways they want to change their relationship to their phones and to social media. In front of the
display, campus ministry students offer to “bless” their phones by holding the phones in both hands and
saying: “We give thanks for the amazing power of information and communication that these phones give
us. And we invoke a holy spirit of discernment about how to use them wisely, and when to turn them
off. Amen!” The smart phone immersive creates a buzz of conversation about the prospects and perils of
social media. It also offers an opportunity to invite students into the ZOE social media universe (coming
VOTIVATOR: Sacred Voting. As any local or national election approaches, this immersant puts the
sacred into the act of voting. A big image of a hand, with a sign that says VOTIVATOR, arrests the
attention of students walking by. On sticky notes that they put onto the hand, they can write their voting
preferences or their concerns about public issues. At the table in front of the display, information on voter
registration, candidates, and ballot issues is made available. Campus ministry students offer a
blessing: “With which hand will you be marking your ballot in the upcoming election?” they ask. As a
student lifts a hand, the campus ministry student holds it with both hands, looks the student in the eyes,
and offers up this blessing: “May love guide your hand to vote for the common good!” and then urges the
student to pass along this blessing to others on campus. This immersant gets a conversation going
among participating students about the sacredness of voting and about their hopes and frustrations about
politics and public life. It puts the sacred into the act of voting and increases the likelihood that students
will actually turn out to vote.
Sacred Drum Circle. This immersant invites passing students to commune in the joy of drumming! A
circle of percussion instruments surrounds a low table on which are placed communion elements of bread
and grape juice/wine with signs saying “Jesus’ table is open to all” with the ZOE chapter’s QR code
displayed. Campus ministry students set a beat with the drums and instruments and invite other students
to join in. Every so often, a campus ministry student stands up and goes to the table and dips a piece of
bread in the juice/wine and eats it and then goes back to the drum circle – without saying a word. Visiting
students are inspired to consider doing the same.
Contemplation Circle. This immersant invites passing students into a moment of silent
contemplation. Campus ministry students form a circle and sit on the grass or ground in silence. In front
of them is a big sign that invites students to join them in contemplation, with a QR code for the ZOE web
page that describes Christian contemplative meditation practice. A stack of pads or pillows
is available for students to use while contemplating.
Beads for the Soul. This immersant engages passing students in stringing prayer/meditation/contemplation beads. On the table are containers with beads and strings and tools for
stringing. Around the immersant, big bright-colored balls of different sizes are placed. A poster shares the
history of prayer beads: they started with Hindus, then Buddhists adopted the tradition, then Muslims
copied the Hindus, and then Christians copied the Muslims! Students are invited to make any kind of
string of beads they wish, to take with them. Campus ministry students introduce the ZOE contemplative
bead practice to those interested: in silence, roll a bead between your fingers each time you mindfully,
compassionately observe a thought, feeling, sensation, or urge. When your attention shifts to another
experience, roll the next bead between your fingers. Do this until you get to the head bead or tie knot. At
this point, focus on the compassionate attention you have been giving to your inner experiences: this is
the agape love that is God!
Questions Campfire. Under a sign with a logo of a campfire are the words “What Are Your Hot
Questions?” Next to it is a board where passing students can post stickies with the questions that are
“hot” for them. ZOE students “prime” the board with their own “hot questions.” One to list prominently, as
a conversation-starter: “What unknown in your field of study is most interesting to you?” At the immersant
table, ZOE students place their computers and smartphones, all of them running a video of a crackling
campfire, and invite passing students to talk about the questions that matter to them. There’s no focus on
answering the questions – just on exploring why they matter to students.
Make a Mandala. Around the immersant table, images of mandalas are displayed – from a variety of
religious and cultural traditions. (Cathedral rose windows, Tibetan thangkas, Jungian images, Native
American round or symmetrical symbols, etc.). On the immersant table is a box of white sand, with
containers next to it filled with colored sand. Using paper cones with small holes at the bottom, students
can make their own sand mandalas with the colored sand. And they can use markers to fill in mandala
coloring books or xeroxed mandala designs. On. the immersant board, they can post stickies summing
up the meaning and significance that mandalas have for them. A poster shares the background and
significance of mandalas in world religions, including Christianity. Campus ministry students at the
immersant invite students into conversation about their experiences.
Share Your Spiritual Playlist. A big sign: SPIRITUAL PLAYLISTS - is the focus of this immersant. It
links to a ZOE site where progressive Christian musicians and groups are listed (coming soon!). Next to it is a board where passing students can post stickies on which they write the names of the musical artists and groups that nurture their souls the most. Students are encouraged to share their playlists on their smart phones with campus ministry students at the table, with the commitment that the campus ministry
chapter will post the list of playlists collected that day. They engage with students about what makes
these artists and groups so important to them, and play songs for each other on their phones.
Make Your Own Altar. Around the immersant table, a variety of “altars” are set up – some visibly
Christian, others not – all serving as “centerpoints” for spiritual reflection. At the table/tables, set out raw
materials for students passing by to come and make their own altar to put in their dorm rooms or
apartments. Gather wood scraps, glue, nails, tools, paint, interesting scraps of cloth, tea light candles,
interesting objects, religious symbols, etc, for use in making the altars. A QR code is displayed, linking to more ZOE information about ways to create and employ home altars (coming soon!). Campus ministry
students engage with visitors about the kinds of altars they are making and what they mean to them.
What’s your idea for a ZOE Immersant? Send it along with videos of your group in action to