FOCUS sets sights on independent schools; executive director search is under way
By Parker T. Williamson, The Layman Online, August 31, 2006
FOCUS belies the myth that the believing heart and the thinking mind don’t go together. Inspired by that conviction, the Very Reverend Peter Moore founded the Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools in 1961, a selectively targeted ministry among elite independent schools on the United States’ eastern seaboard. Today, following his retirement as dean and president of the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, he is serving FOCUS as interim executive director while the trustees search for someone to fill the ministry’s top position.
Moore, an Episcopalian who was educated at St. Mark’s School, Yale, Oxford, and the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., founded FOCUS to present the gospel in an engaging and winsome manner to private middle, high school and university students. Graduates of the schools often enter the business, professional and social world light years ahead of their peers due to the cultural and academic backgrounds into which they were born and reared.
While many independent schools provide limited financial assistance to extend their reach into lower socio-economic groups, the prevailing culture on these campuses represents America’s privileged class. Most students are bright, and their social environment has exposed them widely to the world of arts and letters. Graduates of America’s independent schools enter the marketplace endowed with significant intellectual and financial capital.
But do they possess spiritual capital as well? The dominant post-modern world view that has infected America’s privileged class suggests that many of those whom the world calls wealthy may indeed be poor in soul. They may be familiar with the New York Times’ best seller list, and they are acquainted with America’s first families, but do they know the Bible and have they met Jesus?
A statement by the FOCUS board identifies its challenge: “FOCUS exists to ensure that these students have a forum for questions, for doubts, and for exploration about the Christian faith during their crucial middle and upper school years . The challenge is to earn the trust of not just the students, but also faculty, administrators, and parents; and to speak in a ‘language’ that these privileged and sophisticated adolescents can understand.”
Through its programs and “house parties,” the ministry has reached almost 1,000 students during the academic year and 500 students and faculty members during the summer months. FOCUS owns a study center on Martha’s Vineyard and rents facilities in Charlottesville, Va., Silver Bay in upstate New York, Camp Brookwoods in New Hampshire, Gordon Conwell, Princeton Seminary’s Stuart Hall and Jefferson Hall at the University of Virginia. The ministry works with more than 200 faculty members and chaplains in New England, New Jersey and Virginia.
Twenty-eight regional staff members coordinate school meetings, Bible studies, retreats and special programs. Working with student groups on independent school campuses, they form fellowships within which students are exposed to the gospel, encouraged to support one another as a community of faith and offered opportunities to engage in ministries of service.
Persons who sense that the Lord may be leading them toward this opportunity may direct confidential inquiries to Sam Pease, chairman of the search committee at email@example.com.