The Smith Campus Ministries Center strives to create a united, supportive environment for various denominations and faiths at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The center was founded as a nonprofit corporation in 1990 to build a facility for students of diverse faiths. At the time, several campus ministries were operating out of old, mostly inadequate, buildings and houses. Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran ministry houses stood just across the street from the library tower at a time when the evolving UNCG plan stressed openness, room for expansion and attractive spaces.
Campus ministers and representatives of faith groups worked together to plan a new ecumenical facility and reached an agreement with UNCG that provided for cash and a deed to a new parcel of land in exchange for the sites of the separate ministries. The land exchange, along with a bequest from the Mabel Dare Smith estate, prepared the way for the Smith Campus Ministries Center that today stands at the corner of Walker Avenue and Stirling Street.
Whereas all of the original faith groups – Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Jews and Catholics – would maintain their own identity, this new home was envisioned as providing an unparalleled opportunity.
“Together we represent the community of faith on the UNCG campus,” the center stated in a fundraising campaign. “With your help, we can bring together the variety of ministries scattered around campus and provide a unique and supportive environment for all denominations and faiths.”
Ground was broken for the Mabel D. Smith Associated Campus Ministries Center in the spring of 1993, and the building was dedicated on Oct. 30, 1994. The ceremony’s closing blessing implored in part: “Accept, O God, our prayers and hopes, that this Associated Campus Ministries Center provide the happiness and security for those who now call it home, and those who will do so in the coming generations.”
Dr. Steve Danford, a professor in UNCG’s Department of Physics & Astronomy who was instrumental in the center’s formation as one of its first Board presidents, credits three people “who were particularly visionary and whose efforts really gave us this center. They are Jim Greene, who was in charge of the North Carolina Baptist student ministry, McNeil Smith, a prominent Greensboro attorney who handled much of the negotiating and legal work, and Chancellor William Moran, who was open to our presence on campus.
“Many of us looking at the situation in the 1980s expected that the university would simply seize our properties and we’d be relegated to the periphery of campus. The fact that this didn’t happen came about through the efforts of these three, and a large number of other folks who believed in a vigorous and united ministry with all faiths working together from a central location.”
The Smith Campus Ministries Center, the only privately owned facility within the UNCG boundaries, was built near the center of campus, a short walk from most classrooms and dorms. It provides about 12,000 square feet of space including ministry offices, student lounges and private spaces for prayer and meditation. A large assembly room and adjoining kitchen occupy the majority of space on the second floor. It is now home to Wesley-Luther, Catholic Campus Ministry and N.C. Hillel (Jewish). Baptists and other groups meet in the building as well, and students of all backgrounds and faiths are welcome here.