Desiring a safe space for anyone to practice their faith, three leaders have created a new Christian ministry for students at Appalachian State University.

Melanie Vause serves as the marketing and publicity chair for the new group and plans to lead alongside Sarah Parker and Jordan Venditelli — all three of whom attend the High Country United Church of Christ. The group plans to be an inclusive place to worship for those in and out of the LGBTQ community.

Vause said she, Parker (who serves as the High Country UCC young adult minister) and Venditelli all had similar experiences when it came to feeling alienated by previous experiences with faith communities.

Growing up in evangelical Christianity, Vause said she felt rejected because of her identity as a member of the LGBTQ community and because of her questions about faith, since “having questions showed a sign of weakness.” She said this led to feelings of self-hatred, shame and depression.

For this reason, the trio agreed that The Well would be an opportunity for people to practice faith freely regardless of gender, sexuality or “anything that might separate us from the mainstream church.”

“We wanted to create a space for other people because we know there are a lot of people who feel that same way,” Vause said. “There is no question or debate about anyone’s ability to be part of that community based on where they’ve been in their lives or their identity.”

Vause said the three had noticed there were few younger people at their church, and they wanted to gather with others their own age. In January the trio started discussing the creation of a ministry for college students and how it would operate. The three named the ministry The Well in reference to the story of the woman at the well in the book of John in the Bible.

Vause explained that in this particular biblical story, the woman travels to a well for water and finds that what she is searching for can be found through Jesus, therefore finding life at the well.

“We want our space to be a space for people to come and fill up and feel peace and joy,” Vause said.

On Nov. 13, The Well had its first kickoff event when a group of around 10 people joined Vause, Parker and Venditelli at the F.A.R.M Cafe for an information session. Vause said the three explained their roles, allowed attendees to share their faith stories and then solicited suggestions on The Well’s format.

Based on feedback, Vause said the group will likely meet on campus for the sharing of faith as well as theological discussions and worship nights. Vause said The Well may possibly meet on Wednesdays around 7 p.m., and hopes to convene in Plemmons Student Union. Concrete times, dates and a meeting location have yet to be determined. Vause said The Well would post meeting information on social media and AppSync. The Well can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thewellappstate.

Vause said she understands some people may disagree with the group’s views, but that The Well has a stance on affirming LGBTQ identities and that it is “not up for debate.” She added that The Well is open to those outside of the LGBTQ community as well, as it is an open space for anyone.

For more information on The Well, contact thewell.appstate@gmail.com.

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