Religious Life is in Revival at West Virginia Wesleyan College

By Caitlin Ware

Maybe you are an alumnus of West Virginia Wesleyan College or have attended Annual Conference before, but do you know why the Annual Conference is held there? What is religious life like on campus right now?

West Virginia Wesleyan has a longstanding tradition of partnership with the Methodist Church in West Virginia. Founded by the Conference in 1890, the college has always had Methodist administrative leadership and presence on campus.

Wesleyan has hosted the Annual Conference since 1955 although it wasn’t always held at the college. Prior to 1955, the conference was held in various churches throughout the state.

After receiving an invitation from West Virginia Wesleyan College, the Annual Conference moved to Wesleyan’s Atkinson Auditorium for 12 years. This auditorium, located just behind Wesley Chapel, was the site for worship at Wesleyan for much of its existence. The college and conference outgrew it, however, necessitating the construction of a new meeting space. Wesley Chapel would not come along until 1967, after the conference donated the final $700,000 needed. As we enter our 64th Annual Conference at West Virginia Wesleyan, let’s appreciate and strengthen our conference’s relationship with the college, first by understanding what religious life at Wesleyan is like.

For a great portion of West Virginia Wesleyan’s history, the school was where upcoming ministers in West Virginia flocked to before attending seminary. Many students doubled their duties, studying and simultaneously serving as student pastors in local congregations. Methodist movements and spiritual support provided by the chapel office maintained many young adults’ relationships with the church once they arrived at the college.

Today the conference provides United Methodist scholarships and funds to the college. A marked decline in religious life has occurred over the past decade. However, Lauren Weaver, United Methodist Conference liaison and spiritual life coordinator, arrived at Wesleyan in 2018 and has since seen new organizations spring up.