Eastern Washington University students have an understanding ear and a loving heart in their new campus pastor.
The Rev. Paul Rodkey, a Spokane native, holds the position created by the United Ministries in Higher Education.
The statewide organization is a collaboration of six denominations: Disciples of Christ, American Baptist, Episcopalian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Presbyterian U.S.A. The organization provides for campus ministries for all major state colleges and universities.
Representing so many different churches isn’t difficult, said Rodkey.
“My job is to try to lift out all of those traditions and their theology, kind of the common thread of grace, of acceptance, of hope, of love, of patience, of wisdom,” Rodkey said. “Theologically, we are very similar.
“I find working with all of those (denominations) a real joy because it exposes me to traditions that are a little different from mine,” said Rodkey, who is also pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Spokane, where he has served for 10 years.
The most important part of his job, Rodkey said, is to reach out to students and help them however he can. He wants to engage both the students and faculty, whether it’s through teaching or special events on campus.
“Students have struggles and questions and uncertainties about what life is about, what school is doing to them, and all the other stressful things that happen in college,” he said. “Sometimes they just need someone to listen.
“Mostly, I just simply try to make sure that I’m loving and honest to that call of love I believe the faith is about and help the students in that way.”
Rodkey doesn’t see his campus ministry as any different from pastoring a congregation.
“The issues of the campus are really the issues that the local churches encounter, too. I mean, it’s not like they’re different worlds,” he said.
“The campus is really an extension of what the local churches do.”
Rodkey first considered becoming a minister when he was in the eighth grade. His pastor at First Presbyterian Church advised him to let life instruct him.
Rodkey followed that advice and considered other occupations before entering the ministry 17 years ago.
He is a graduate of Shadle Park High School, Whitworth College (1974) and San Francisco Theological Seminary.
“Ministry is something that I just felt called to in the sense that I would like to help make this world more of a reflection of the Kingdom of God,” Rodkey said. “I guess I really see myself more as a teacher and as a helper.”
Rodkey’s Cheney office is in Cheney Christian Church at Fifth and D streets. He can be reached at 235-2500.