New student-run religious retreat to come next fall

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Incoming freshmen in the class of 2016 could have the opportunity to spend Labor Day weekend on a religious journey in Glen Rose next fall.

The four-day nondenominational Christian retreat, Exodus, would have three goals, co-director Graham McMillan said.

McMillan, a sophomore political science major, said the goals would aim to help freshmen connect with other students, settle into faith communities and establish a mentors to help guide them during their time at the university.

Currently, the group is accepting applications for 20 to 25 leadership spots until March 5.

Sophomore economics major Andrew Pajela said he thought the retreat would be an interesting idea, but that Labor Day weekend might be too early in the year for freshmen to have made friends to spend time with on the trip.

“You don’t really want to go to things like that on your own; you want to go with people you know,” he said.

Sophomore pre-major Jenny Degelia said she would have liked to participate in a retreat like Exodus as a freshman because she could have met and explored her faith with other freshman.

McMillan said he and the other co-director, Tiffany Charters, were inspired to create Exodus from their experiences and struggles with faith as freshmen.

“I had the same struggle [as Charters] trying to find and plant myself in a Christian community,” he said.

McMillan said they also would want to help stop first-year students’ faith from dwindling when they entered college.

“We want to ensure that you come into college on fire for Christ and then you continue that in the next four years,” he said.

Charters, a sophomore early childhood education major, said the intangible goals would be much more important than the tangible goals.

“We want to ignite on our campus a sense of unity between believers,” she said. “A sense that we don’t need to have a label.”

She said Exodus would be organized entirely by students and not connected to a ministry or to the university.

The retreat would be funded by a $150 fee to attend. She said she hoped about 100 freshmen would attend.

McMillan said the group was fundraising with other churches, especially ministries with close ties to the university, to cover the rest of the costs.

As for the more tangible goals, Charters said the group would have to raise $25,000 for Exodus to happen next year. 

One of the long-term goals of the retreat would be to get campus support for Exodus and to make the program a solid part of the freshman experience, she said.

God has been essential to the creation of Exodus, Charters said.

“When we keep thinking that this organization has hit a wall, God is always there with Plan Z,” she said.

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