Everyone enjoys a little bit of southern hospitality. Toledo Campus Ministry has brought that to Toledo with the hiring the Rev. David Montgomery as executive director.
Montgomery, 57, who succeeded TCM’s longtime director, the Rev. Dee Baker, on Jan. 1, grew up in a Presbyterian church in Atlanta and then in Richmond once his family moved. He spent his college career at Western Carolina University, majoring in recreational leadership.
He said his first job after college was very rewarding, working at a camp for emotionally disturbed boys. The boys came to the camp in an alternative sentencing program instead of going to prison for crimes they had committed. Montgomery helped to mentor the trouble youths, providing them with a time and place to receive help and learn how to heal mentally.
He left that job after two years to get married and start a family. His wife, the Rev. Ann Marie Montgomery, is a teacher and interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Huron, Ohio. The Montgomerys have been married 33 years and are parents of three sons. Their family went through a rough time two years ago when his wife was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. After chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she recovered very well and is currently cancer-free.
Montgomery said his job as director of TCM is a new type of challenge for him. His previous positions have been more co-pastoral positions that he created or invented himself. Here is picking up where Baker left off after 20 years on the job.
“I'm very lucky to come into a program that is already established,” Montgomery said. TCM was founded 35 years ago and is focused toward reaching the students on the University of Toledo's campus.
TCM has traditions in place that David can work off of. He has no plans to change anything about the program, but seeks to build on the existing foundation.
Before coming to Toledo he served as Presbyterian campus minister at Murray State University in Murray, Ky.
What Montgomery enjoys most about Toledo Campus Ministry thus far is that denomination is irrelevant. Participants at TCM say that they just want to follow Christ and that nothing else matters. “We are an intentional, diverse community,” he said.
TCM's theme for the upcoming year is Romans 14-1, “Welcome everyone with open arms”. One of Montgomery's goals is to educate students on other traditions and religions so that they can appreciate and value their own so much more.
Its mission statement describes Toledo Campus Ministry as “an ecumenical multicultural community – is to welcome, disciple, and serve The University of Toledo, build partnerships with local churches, and equip students to serve the world in Christ’s name.”
Different weekly events such as Koinonia groups (small groups) are designed to allow students to lead each other and dig deeper into knowing Christ and each other’s beliefs. TCM also hosts family meals on Fridays, and Soul Food, a meal prepared from local churches, followed by singing, Bible study and prayer.
The ministry is also very involved on campus and within the community. Students participate in elementary school tutoring, cleaning up streams, and participating in a mission trip as an alternative spring break. Last year TCM took students to North Carolina to help work with children and to rebuild in areas of need. Montgomery said he hopes to lead another spring break trip to help in a disaster area, either in Oklahoma, New Orleans or the East Coast.
TCM also helps students intern in local churches around Toledo. Currently they have 11 students working for six different churches in the area.
While Montgomery's passion is working in youth ministry, the longtime Southerner said he never expected to be serving in Toledo. It is taking some adjustments, but Montgomery has been active in community events and is fitting into the multicultural community with an open mind.
“When there was an opening for a full-time campus minister to work with an ecumenical ministry, I jumped at the chance — even in Toledo, Ohio!” he said. “Now Toledo has been quite a blessing and I've found it to be a great place to be in ministry.”