May 15, 2017, 11:07 AM

A Compelling God Story

We sent our graduates off with a special meal a few weeks ago, and the Hope House has quieted down for the summer. Summer has often been my favorite part of the year. Programming slows down to just one night a week, and the smaller group of students become better known to me. There’s also time for lingering conversations over lemonade in rocking chairs to reflect, as well as time to imagine a new vision for the upcoming year.


Hope House hired rising sophomore Kayla Massey as a 10-hour-week Administrator of Development and Marketing for a one-year trial basis. Between Kayla’s enthusiasm for the ministry and students who have approached us to be interns, my job has shifted quite a bit in the last 6 months. I went from supervising one year long intern to co-supervising five interns with Hope’s Director of Hospitality, Terry Paris. As my role has shifted from providing all the direct programming to “equipping the saints,” I find myself humbled by the gifts God has provided to the people around me. I’m grateful to Rivermont Presbyterian and Second Presbyterian who provide funds to support the ministry of two of our interns. The students who consistently approach us to ask if they can intern for free surprise me. But it shouldn’t.


Rivermont Presbyterian Church is creating a Scope and Sequence for children and youth, and in preparation we have been gathering weekly to discuss The Thoughtful Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean, professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. The book looks at a long-term study regarding trends among Christian youth and how they affect their long-term adult faith. Two things have stuck out to me: 1) Youth who have high faith regularly participate in the life of the church and know they and their ideas are valued, and 2) Youth want to participate in a God-story that compels them and has meaning for their lives. So when a college student asks if they can play a role in our ministry, Terry and I find a way because it means they have found meaning in our God-story, and want to be a bigger part of it.


Our God story, of course, starts with God. Yet what I’m feeling particularly grateful for at this time is how the Spirit has widened the story to include a Presbytery that tirelessly seeks to support us, to Churches who make room on their prayer chains and in their budgets, and even beyond to the particular individuals who come and cook, feed, clean, sit, serve, and pray with us weekly. The ministry these students are excited about is a witness to connectional Church at it’s best. What they see, who they see excites them, and it has compelled them to want to be a part of the something bigger. For all of you, I give thanks.



Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas

Campus Minister

Hope House

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April 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Understanding and Conversation

Hope House

Written by Spencer Lim (Student intern for marketing and communication)


Hope House UTC has been tackling the task of providing understanding on campus between different groups of people. The narrative between those of different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures and those used to their views and ways of life being accepted and heard has been rocky to say the least, especially considering the political climate in the US concerning issues both foreign and domestic. Where does the Hope House factor in to all this?

We keep our doors open to people of all backgrounds and strive to model the radical hospitality of Jesus Christ. To create more conversation and understanding between groups from different cultures, issues and backgrounds, we have begun hosting Words Work on Mondays from 8-9 pm. Here we discuss current events and how they intersect with our faith while sharing viewpoints on these topics. We have also begun showing a movie every week at the Hope House to promote understanding and conversation, as well as to expose students to something different that they may not watch on a regular basis.

Conversation is not always easy, nor is it convenient. It is, however, necessary in order to grow in understanding as one human race. At the Hope House, we condone an accepting and respectful narrative in order to couple our diverse students with opportunities to hear and learn from each other. We are reaching out to other organization to co-sponsor events at the Hope House and on campus. In time we hope students will view Hope House as a place they can most comfortably be out of their comfort zone and unite with their fellow peers. With so many bright faces coming in and out of the Hope House on a daily basis, making sure we make use of an opportunity to promote understanding among our diverse crowd is a top priority. Our leadership team is constantly working on new ways to integrate our community at the Hope House, and we are excited for the future.



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March 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Article by Dominique Malone

Located on Vine Street, the Hope House is more than what meets the eye. What draws most people in is the free food, but what keeps them coming are the people that will leave a lasting mark on your heart.


“I like the fact that there is diversity here. It’s good to have that here to make you more open,” said Zach Gilbert, a senior from Nashville.


The Hope House is centered around their Presbyterian faith, but they welcome anyone and everyone. You don’t have to be a follower of Christ to enjoy the experience of the house. In fact, they encourage people from all walks of life to come because their main goal is to provide hospitality to everyone. Moreover, in many ways, the Hope House has allowed UTC students to explore religion and social problems that typically are unusual of religious organizations.


“I’ve always felt like churches do a bad job of connecting their faith to the real world and I feel like the Hope House does that with the real world. The Hope House really focuses on what Jesus would do in a response to social justice issues and homelessness,” said Saama Davies, a graduate student from Chattanooga.


In addition to the welcoming people of the Hope House, the amenities are sure to draw anyone in. They have three floors that are filled with all the food you can eat, TVs, a screening room, games, a piano, guitars, books and study rooms.


Moreover, there is no pressure evident in the Hope House from anyone. If you want to eat and then leave, then that is perfectly fine. If you want to go to enjoy Bible study, then that is okay. If you want to just watch TV and escape from the realities of school, then that is great. The point is that the Hope House is here for you and here to help you with whatever you need.


A friend. A family member. A listener. An advisor. A spiritual leader. A place to relax. A place to eat. A place to cultivate your spirituality. These are things you will find in the Hope House, so take the first step and visit.

Direct link to the article in The Echo.


-Article by UTC student Dominique Malone

January 16, 2017, 1:17 PM

Call for Understanding

Hope House’s journey to the college conference to Montreat, NC titled “Beyond Babel” was a success with 12 students in attendance. Our students joined a gathering of predominantly Presbyterian (USA) Christians from various parts of the country who were dedicated to strengthening race relations within amid the current adverse climate our country is harboring. This retreat was highlighted by very motivational speakers, like Valarie Kaur and Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, who touched the crowd in ways that were unexpected. For the Hope House, this conference gave many of us voice that we didn’t recognize we had, or if we did, were reluctant to exercise it.

Participating in critical discussions and workshops and then discussing the impact it had on us afterwards piggybacked on our lock-in experience in December. I not only feel like perspectives changed, but also attitudes toward the current state of America and towards each other. The energy in this conference was overall positive and optimistic. Not solely because someone had a great speech or that one of the workshops was super fun, but the altogether effort of so many to gain a thorough understanding of different points of view was a beautiful sight, even breathtaking.

Our students led calls to worship and interpretive dances on the same stage Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke on. Being present to witness and be a part of even more history was one of the most rewarding parts about this conference. I saw my friends take steps that took incredible amounts of courage and even was able to glimpse into their future selves in their attitudes at this conference. Rev. Paul Roberts Sr. gave wonderful sermons shining light on many important points on what it means to be black in America but also the importance of realizing the ultimate truth, that we are all God’s children. I am proud to have been a part of this conference with the great people who attended it with me. We made new friends and became acquainted with very dedicated and knowledgeable people who saw the potential our students and ministry possess.

Getting to meet other college students from across the country was a privilege, especially being able to witness those with immense talent during the talent show on Wednesday night. We were also able to meet UKirk Knoxville, UKirk Nashville, and Maryville for a fun evening of dancing and snacks. I was impressed and humbled to see and interact so many ministries furthering such an important call of understanding and improvement of both ourselves, our communities and our nation.

-Spencer Lim

Tricia Dillon Thomas on 01-16-2017 at 3:19 PM
Thank you, Spencer, for your words, insight, trust, and courage.
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January 2, 2017, 8:22 AM

On the road with Hope

Friends, the article below was written by one of our new interns Spencer Lim. Spencer will continue documenting our group’s experience during and after the Montreat Colleagiate Conference, which centers on the story of the Tower of Babel and God’s gift of diversity when the Israelites wanted to build a wall and remain untouched by the world around them. We are excited to be bringing a group of 14 folks with us to the conference this year. We hope you’ll join us on this journey as we share our experiences through video, writing, and photography, as we risk being vulnerable in naming our truth. You can also follow us at on Facebook at Friends of Hope.

Peace and a Happy New Year,

Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas


Hope students attending the Montreat Collegiate Conference, focused on race relations this year, participated in an overnight lock in at the Hope House. Scheduled weeks before, students accepted that going to this race relations conference would be challenging and thus committed to strengthening the collective relationships among the. With race being such a tense issue in today’s climate, making this stride for a diverse understanding and strong team building was imperative.

6pm on a Friday night students joined at the Hope House for food and fellowship while enjoying pizza and other snacks, conversing about the day and breaking the ice. What was is so interesting is the diverse group of students participating on this trip and the equal attempt everyone made to find a common ground. A Q & A, organized by one of the student leaders, asked us general questions about thoughts and experiences with regarding race and prejudice on our campus and throughout life.

In an effort to gain a broader understanding of different race perspectives, students first watched the movie Crash (2004) and the following morning Dear White People (2014). Giving different perspectives of race and social class in a post 9/11 era, Crash was sure to make light of the everyday stereotypes and prejudices we make and perceive about others on a day to day basis and the lasting effects this can have on the decisions we make.  Dear White People touching on race relations between white and black at a PWI during the Obama era, as well as the complexity of intersectionality, which addresses race, sexuality, gender identity, and sexual attraction. The movie shed light on the struggles of not being accepted as your full self because of social norms and the fear of being misunderstood and outcast.

After each of the movies students opened their journals and wrote down thoughts, feelings, and responses they experienced. Some recorded their reactions via video and afterwards everyone came together to express and build upon thoughts and ideas. This way students were able to record how they felt about the movie personally with no bias, and take from those organized thoughts what they were comfortable sharing in group conversation. Students’ journaling and sharing experiences among one another turned out to be an emotional and humbling exchange.

Afterwards photos were taken as a group to document the experience and post for Facebook. The lock in was a great success and there will be more to come as the journey to Montreat develops.

-Spencer Lim


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September 11, 2015, 4:54 PM

Why Remember 9-11?

Photo Credit: Lynn Johnson via Getty Images)


Wanted to repost an article I wrote for the Herald Tribune (Sarasota, FL) on the 10th anniversary of 9-11. I still find truth in this answer to why we remember and how we remember an event like 9-11. 



My husband and I were living in a small fishing town in Alaska on 9/11/01. Because our home was on a separate island, we boated in to work every day. Upon arriving at the docks on that particular morning, we found fishermen gathered around a radio. Gathering around a radio was such an unlikely thing for fishermen to do. We knew something was amiss.

I was two months pregnant with my firstborn when those planes crashed into the Twin Towers. After watching videos repeatedly played on TV of burning buildings vaporizing into dust and sane people jumping to their deaths, it was hard to think of anything else than to what kind of world I was delivering my child. What were our lives going to be like? Should we move back home to the southeast and live closer to family? Was my child going to know the freedom of playing in the backyard with tadpoles and fireflies, or would we be too afraid to let him outside?

So it came as quite a surprise when the other morning, as I drove my now 9 year-old to school, he talked about 9/11 like I would talk about the American Revolution, one piece in the tapestry of American history. The tragedy of that day was so explicably tied to my womb. 

How did he not know he was such a huge piece of the larger narrative for our little family?


It makes me wonder, though. Why would I want him to know anything more? Isn’t knowing that people hijacked planes to kill themselves and thousands of others enough? Doesn’t he feel freer to play in the backyard and catch tadpoles and fireflies because he hasn’t been saturated in the horrid details, scared of what might happen next?

We each have our own 9/11 memories. A number of us were actual witnesses to the tragedy. Others lost family members and friends. There are even some in this town [Sarasota, FL] who were sitting at the knees of the President when he first heard the news. For many of us our lives have never been the same.


There’s a story in the Hebrew Bible about remembering. After the nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River, God asked Joshua to gather 12 men from each tribe.

Each of these men was to go back to the middle of the Jordan River, pick up a stone, and carry it on his shoulder. 

“The stones will serve as a reminder to you. In days to come, your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them that the Lord cut off the flow of water in the Jordan River. Tell them its water stopped flowing when the ark of the covenant of the Lord went across. The stones will always remind the Israelites of what happened there” (Joshua 4).

What did happen there? After years wandering in the desert, what did God want Israel to never forget?

                       It was that the living God was among them. The living God didn’t leave their side.


On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, we will do a lot of remembering. Some of our memories will be the replay of what took place that day. Some of our memories will be how our lives were forever changed. As a mother to young children who will hear about the tragedy of 9/11 over and over again, I hope what they hear is that in the midst of that terrible day, and in the midst of the months and years that have followed, God was among us. The living God never left our side. As a person of faith I know it’s my job to share that narrative as the pervading one.

May we never forget. May we never forget the display of sacrificial love as men and women risked their lives for others. May we never forget how people suddenly had compassion for one another, quelling tendencies to be quick to anger with expressions of love. May we never forget how we gathered in communities, in our synagogues, churches, mosques and other places of worship and refused to let evil and destruction have the last word, but instead put our hope and trust in God. May we never forget, so that when our children ask what happened, we can recall a day where God was indeed among us, that the living God never left us, and that the living God will never leave our side.


Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2011/09/10/3483052/ten-years-later-why-remember-911.html#storylink=cpy


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July 23, 2015, 12:00 AM

"We're gathering for hope at Hope"

I drive down Amnicola Highway every day for work. So I prayed for whatever it was that caused police car after fire truck after ambulance to speed by me and divert traffic from my normal route that Thursday morning. I texted my colleague and a student at the Hope House and said something was going on, and then texted them back after hearing Chattanooga State was on lockdown and an active shooter in the area.

It was gathered around a TV together where we heard not Chattanooga State, the Navy Recruitment office. And the mall. And Lee Highway. And two shooters. And then not Lee Highway. And not two shooters. With our eyes glued to the TV we heard the ambulances pulling into Erlanger only a stone’s throw away from us and prayed, “Dear Lord, please be with these people.” And selfishly, “Dear Lord, please don’t let it be any of ours.”

Hours later after the name of the shooter and the school and department he graduated from was released, after our board met and dispersed, a student came to the back door and into the kitchen. Hers is the face that continues to define what this shooting has meant to me. Fear. Disbelief. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Unity.

In the days that followed, we learned that our little community had been drastically affected by Thursday’s horrific events, but it was not in any way any of us were prepared. 

Since starting as the interim Director of Spirituality at Hope in November of last year, I have earned a couple of things.

1) This is not a traditional campus ministry.  

2) The Holy Spirit is loose in this place.

3) My job is to get out of the way.

Walking by tables during any Free Tuesday Lunch, you might hear Spanish, English, or Arabic being spoken. And if you sat down with students, you would hear debates over which engineering department was the best, questions about God's grace, conversations about whose home country has the best Spanish, invitations for an open house at the mosque. You would see henna tattoos and Bibles. African, Indonesian, Palestinian, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Rwandan, English, Russian, Australian, American, Chinese, Ghanaian, Pakistani, Israeli. This place is full to over flowing with compassion and hospitality, grace and welcome.

It was disbelief and shock I'm sure. But those eyes. Bigger than normal. And wet. 

"I grew up with him. I know him."


It's not the way I would have chosen to have the closest link to the events of last Thursday. What do you do with that? And how do you navigate people hurting who are tied to a man who did such terrible things? I mean, I love these students. Like a pastor, sometimes even a friend. I know I even cross the boundary a lot and wander over to mothering. What do you do when a few of your flock are hurting in ways that are unbelievable? That you cannot even imagine and never hope to imagine? How do you offer support with such a fine line between supporting and sympathizing?


2) The Holy Spirit is loose in this place.

I think it's important to acknowledge a couple of things about the response from the Muslim community to this tragedy. On Thursday Muslims were celebrating Ramadan. Friday was Eid al-Fitr. I am not well versed in Islam, but I understand enough to know that when the Imam and leaders of the Muslim community announced they were cancelling Eid, it was akin to Christians canceling Easter. They are both high holy days. Representatives from the Muslim community did not think it was faithful to have a celebration during such a time as this. 

Instead many, after some making sure it was okay, attended the interfaith service at Olivet Baptist Church. The single largest group represented at the service, larger than the police, military, Christian, and Jewish communities, were the Muslims. And when those several hundred Muslims were invited to stand and show their solidarity with the broken community at large, the rest of the attendees rose to stand with them to signify unity. We are Chattanooga Strong.

In the midst of brokenness and grief and during a high religious holiday, the Chattanoogan Muslim community has continued to point away from themselves and towards the victims and their families. 

“Let’s gather for hope at Hope.”  

The other part of the text message we sent out to our students warned them to be discreet so the media would not show up. We needed to process this and support one another. And so we gathered. Representing at least five different faiths and four different ethnicities, with members of the Presbytery, our board, and UTC's Dean of Students, we acknowledged the space was Holy, and now was the time to listen to one another.

Our Muslim students shared their horror and disbelief over growing up with someone who would do such a heinous act. Other students asked them questions about Islam, about the personality of the shooter. They were conversations that could happen because the students already loved and cared for one another. We as a community took turns sharing our fears, where we placed our hope, and then with a candle lighting ritual how we hoped to move forward. 

There are a lot of things I have not done well in this ministry. I did not do Ferguson well, if at all. On social media, sure, but not with the students here that matter the most to me. With so many students, I have not learned enough names and remembered enough details. I have often allowed the shyness I feel in new situations to overcome my voice of justice and mercy. But Sunday. Sunday I remembered #3.

3) My job is to get out of the way. 

There is a lot to say about the days since, but I think this is the most important: what gave many of us hope (faculty, pastors, and students alike) was that gathering, that we could sit with one another as Christians, as Muslims, as black, brown, and white, as people with different ideologies, cultures, and politics. We could be honest and scared and angry and vulnerable - we could be authentic and still love and care for one another.

I think we are all still trying to figure out how to move forward, how to begin to put the pieces back together. But here is what I know to be true: this call of Jesus’ for radical hospitality changes lives and communities, and the Holy Spirit is loose both in this ministry and in the hearts of our young people. We are indeed a people of Hope. We are hope-filled.

Julie Johnson on 07-25-2015 at 9:53 AM
Thanking God that someone who is as gifted and sensitive as you is right midst of of all of this pain and confusion. Why is it that that tragedy clarifies our vocation? Live into Hope remembering to be gentle with yourself as you care for others. Praying..
Sandy Winter on 07-25-2015 at 12:41 AM
Belle on 07-23-2015 at 11:36 PM
Wonderful work!
Karen and Ted on 07-23-2015 at 8:45 PM
So proud of you, Tricia...so glad you are there at this time...sending love, hugs, and prayers
Laurel on 07-23-2015 at 6:18 PM
Thank you for your witness of the Spirit at work, giving us all hope. Keeping you in my prayers.
MaryAnn on 07-23-2015 at 5:55 PM
Grateful that God has put you in the place at this time, with these people. Proud of you, praying for you, love you bunches.
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