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Monthly summer barbecues aim to foster community and inclusivity

By Vama Saini, June 9 2024—

The University of Calgary’s free monthly summer barbecues, hosted by the Lutheran Campus Ministry and Campus United Calgary, have become a cherished tradition aimed at fostering community and inclusivity among students of all backgrounds and faiths. 

These cost-free gatherings, which take place on the last Wednesday of each month from April to Aug., offer a welcoming space for students of all backgrounds to connect, enjoy diverse food options and engage in communal activities.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Reverend Margaret Propp, a chaplain for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Christian Faith representative, along with Maegan Kuziej, a staff member at the Faith and Spirituality Centre and the Women’s Resource Centre who is a part of the summer team for these events, spoke about the monthly barbecues and what they entail.

Propp shared that the barbecues began approximately ten years ago at Edworthy Park.

“It was well-received, but last year we moved it to Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Eau Claire,” she explained.

The move was prompted by feedback from international students who found Edworthy Park less accessible. The historic church now hosts these monthly summer gatherings, providing a convenient and welcoming space for students.

Attendees can expect a variety of activities and food options at these events. This attention to dietary needs ensures that everyone feels welcome and respected.

“We try to make it inclusive for people from different backgrounds, so we always have halal, chicken, vegetarian and vegan options,” says Propp.

Students cook their meals over a fire — creating a communal and interactive atmosphere. Activities such as volleyball, spike ball and live music further enhance the experience.

“We spend a good hour and a half singing around the fire. It’s always beautiful and grounding,” Propp said.

Propp aims to make inclusivity a cornerstone of these events. Students from different faiths or no faith backgrounds often participate.

“Even though we are Christian, we don’t bring our religion into this space in terms of doctrine or prayer. The only piece of our religion that we are doing is being hospitable to our neighbour,” Propp explained. 

According to Propp, the impact of these barbecues on the student community is profound as they provide a safe, agenda-free forum for students to connect and build relationships.

“It’s a forum for students to feel safe, with no agenda. This is another entry point for them to decide if this is a group of people they want to connect with,” Propp said.

Propp said this sense of community is especially important in the aftermath of the pandemic, as the events help rebuild the social fabric that was disrupted.

“Before the pandemic, there was a strong body of students that were getting tag-teamed in, then the pandemic put a halt to that. So I think the last couple of years is about rebuilding,” said Propp. 

One of the most memorable aspects for Propp gifting handmade quilts to graduating students.

“A knitting group had donated some quilts to give to students that were graduating [that year]. The quilts were handmade by this congregation,” said Propp. It felt really special to be able to honour and embark the individuals that were a part of that community over the years.” 

Propp and Kuziej explained how organizing these barbecues has been both personally and professionally rewarding.

“Being in the outdoors together and in a fire, there is something that is just lovely and memory-making and soulful about that. To be able to share that with others and maybe having someone experience that for the first time, they can do that with their own family and friends one day,” Propp said. 

“I can say that I’ve built a lot of connections from volunteering and helping set up these barbeques,” said Kuziej. “It is really fulfilling to be able to see the difference we are making. Especially since the pandemic, I think it was even more important to have these.”

Learn more about these events through the Lutheran Campus Ministry website.

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