Tag : iwu

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Thanks to Fusion, He Only Filled Out One Application: Zach McConnell

By: Kendra Housel

Zach McConnell (featuring an IWU shirt)

Most seniors in high school spend months and months hunched over their computer, filling out application after application, writing essay upon essay about how something less-than-inspiring completely changed their lives, hoping to get accepted to a university.

It is an exhausting, often painstaking process filled with lots of uncertainty and often anxiety.

While this scene is very familiar to Zach McConnell, it is more reminiscent of the fact that he has applied to be on the television show Survivor for the past fifteen seasons.

No, McConnell’s college search was much simpler.

This youth pastor did something that he says that he would never advise his students to do. After a rather apathetic time of searching around for possible colleges to attend, with the encouragement of his youth pastor and a memory of an amazing time he had at Fusion (an IWU hosted high school conference), McConnell applied to just one college: Indiana Wesleyan University.

Of the decision to approach college with such confidence and optimism, McConnell said, “I was captivated and wowed by the campus and the environment. In 2007, God had called me to ministry, but I didn’t necessarily know where to go.”

“I only applied to IWU, because my youth pastor suggested I go, and I had really liked Fusion,” he explained. “But looking back, despite my apathy of searching for universities, I knew the Holy Spirit was leading the way … I don’t advise my students to just submit one application and ‘hope for the best’ just because of one youth conference. Terrible idea. But God knew what was happening.”

The time that followed this step of faith is what McConnell describes as “life-changing.”

His time at IWU was marked by a transformation of his heart, attitude and perspective. Much of that was due to the community that McConnell found one that continues to love and support him today.

“Every year continued to be a year of growth while attending IWU, ” McConnell said. “I found amazing accountability partners that I still connect with today. I have amazing ‘summit’ moments where I am reminded that I am uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God.”

“I cannot express this any louder – I am so thankful for my time at Bowman Hall. The biggest piece of the puzzle I learned is that I am a Man of God, because He has created me in His image. I’m so thankful for the principles of Bowman and the people I was surrounded with while there,” McConnell said.

McConnell also found another relational blessing while studying at IWU.

As he pursued his degree in Youth Ministry, he also pursued his wife, Amanda. The pair graduated together in 2012 and are getting ready to welcome their first child this December.

McConnell and his wife, Amanda, at their graduation from IWU.

Currently, McConnell and his wife both serve in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at Linwood Church, where he is the NextGen Pastor and she is the Children’s Director.

McConnell rejoices in the opportunity to serve alongside his wife and lead his students to a more fruitful and authentic relationship with Christ through celebration, service and discipline.

In reflecting on his time at IWU, McConnell feels that he learned much about ministry, while also being affirmed that it was truly what he was called to do.

He said that he truly appreciates that IWU is an academic university that makes spirituality a priority over academics.

With a great love for IWU and the Fusion conference, of which he served on the leadership team while a student, McConnell continues to bring his students to attend Fusion annually, all the way from South Dakota. This year will be his 11th Fusion.


Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Kendra is a junior Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. Kendra is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing and caring for others.

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Pastor of the Week: John Bray

By: Dezaray Barr


john casual headshot

Rev. John Bray

Reverend John Bray (’72, Religion) is recognized as the “Pastor of the Week” this week. “Pastor of the Week” (PotW) is a renewed tradition honored by the Office of Alumni and Church Engagement which
appreciates local pastors for their service and faith.


Reflecting on his childhood, Bray said, “I am a lifetime Wesleyan. My dad was a pastor. I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. My dad was a trustee at the university and my brother and sister came here. There was no question that this university was in my future. There was nothing in me that said ‘I don’t want to go there.’”



John preparing to receive an honorary degree with his brother, Don Bray.

Bray knew before attending college that he had a call to ministry; however, he ran from God and from the calling during his first few years at school. Being a pastor was not a job Bray envisioned himself doing and his first few years studying were not very spiritual. However, eventually Bray accepted the call and began doing well in school. He met his wife Patty Bray (’73), graduated from the college and immediately began pastoring at Heritage Wesleyan Church, which has since changed its name to Heritage Church.


John’s first few years as a pastor were not easy, “For the first seven years it was just slow going. I begged God to let me do something besides being a pastor.” Bray realized that although he had a nonconformist personality, he was pastoring Heritage Church within the limits of the congregation’s expectation. He took a step back, reevaluated and began pastoring in his own nonconformist, outgoing and funny leadership style he had longed for. Bray’s change altered his life and the life of the church. He began to develop a new passion for Heritage and for his congregation, which is something he had not experienced up to this time. The church grew from about 200 members when Bray began, to over 3,000 members when he left.


Bray left Heritage church in 2014, after spending 41 years pastoring the church; however, he continues to work closely with the church still today. It was not easy for Bray or his wife to leave the church they had spent so much of their lives at, but Bray knew it was time to let someone else take over.


Bray spent last year as the interim pastor at First Wesleyan Church of Battle Creek Michigan. Shortly after, Bray was asked to be the interim Dean of the Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University. On March 1, Bray become the Dean of the Chapel, dropping the interim title and accepting the responsibility to stay on campus permanently and pastor to the students living on campus at Indiana Wesleyan University.


John preaching during chapel at IWU

John preaching during chapel at IWU

Bray is enjoying his new position and has great plans for the future, “Indiana Wesleyan is a great place with great students. It’s ironic that I’m dean of the chapel because I had trouble going to chapel. I realize that anything you do three days a week, no matter how well executed, can get a little boring. Some chapels will always be better than others, but I want to bring a new spirit of freshness and creativity to chapel. You can’t do it every chapel, but I would love to see one chapel a week surprise people with its creativity.”


When Bray was a student he never enjoyed chapel, and he believes that the goal of his job is to draw students’ attention, allowing them to have a better experience than he did. Bray has been in the seats that the students currently sit in. He knows how they feel, “It’s real easy for students to come in and sit down and open a book. I believe that it’s my job to get them to close the book. When I speak I’d love to do something in the first few minutes to have them want to pay attention. If it’s boring, I don’t care how sound the theology is, people quit paying attention. I want to be creative, practical and make it applicable for life.”


In 2007 Bray earned his Master’s degree in Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University and last year received an honorary doctorate degree from the university. Revs. John and Patty Bray have two adult daughters: Heather Bray and Kari Jackson. They also have three beautiful grandchildren: Stella Jackson (7), Leo Jackson (3½) and Vivian Jackson (1).


Written by Dezaray Barr, Writer for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a Freshman Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU Dezaray is involved in PRSSA leadership and runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s blog and portfolio at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

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Indiana Wesleyan Chorale to Tour Florida



By: Katherine Arch

This Spring Break the Indiana Wesleyan University Chorale is excited to travel to Florida for their bi-annual tour. Led by Dr. Todd Guy, director of Indiana Wesleyan’s elite vocal performance group and supervising faculty for this trip, students will travel across Florida with the mission of spreading God’s love and sharing their musical talents. Leaving on March 5th, students will leave early from Marion, Indiana and later that day they will arrive in Brooksville, Florida for their first concert. During the nine-day trip, students will give concerts in seven locations, across the state. Students will sing at schools and in churches, ministering to people through song and also providing increased visibility for the music department.

Students will be making their first stop at Brooksville Wesleyan Church in Brooksville, Florida, a community that is home to many Wesleyan Pastors and Indiana Wesleyan Alumni. Members of this church will serve as host families for students as they travel. Faculty and students hope to see this as a community-building experience between churches and members of the chorale.

“Obviously the group’s primary goal is to glorify God through these performances,” stated Krista Brown, Coordinator of Alumni and Church Relations. “Additionally, students will bond with each other and members of the church community.” Brown mentioned that for many of the students, this is the highlight of their year in Chorale. Students and faculty work towards this tour all year, it is a time for student to anticipate and enjoy. In preparation for this trip, students practice extensively and work at fundraising to help cover the costs.

Looking forward to the trip, Brown shares the sentiment of many that this will be a special time.

“It’s amazing to see how students grow through this time,” mentioned Brown, “The group that comes back is often changed; they draw closer and learn from each other and from this experience. I am so excited for this group and the experience they will have.”

For complete tour schedule – Click Here.