Date: November 25, 2009
In the spring of 1978, with lots of motivation but only a few years of personal experience as family life educators, Don and Sue Murray, both employees at Andrews University, along with three Seminary students and their wives launched an experiential relationship enrichment program for the engaged couples of Andrews University.
The couples had only six weeks to prepare for their first program and with all eight team members either working or in school full-time, it seemed a daunting task. But miraculously, it came together.
The first weekend-long program was in May 1978. That successful weekend led to the Murrays being asked to make a long-term commitment to the Office of Campus Ministries to offer AEE two to three times per year. “We agreed, but how could we know that ‘long-term’ would mean 26 years, 80 weekends and over 1,500 couples attending?” says Don Murray.
Engaged Encounter seemed to be a perfect moniker for the program. “Adventist” was later added to the title, and thus the beginning of Adventist Engaged Encounter (AEE) at Andrews University.
Don and Sue Murray, the founding couple of AEE.
It was months later that the team discovered Engaged Encounter (EE) had been a viable program in another church denomination since 1969. Soon, the Murrays met with Jim and Betsy Carr, founders of EE, and attended one of their weekends. The Carr’s gave permission for the Murray’s to use the Engaged Encounter name, asking only that it remain open to couples of all faiths wanting to establish a Christian marriage—and it has.
The weekend is a guided relational and spiritual journey of couple enrichment and growth for engaged and recently married couples who desire a Christian marriage. It is not a lecture series, a sermon, a group sharing experience, a Bible study, or a weekend vacation. Each couple is given private time for personal reflection and couple sharing. A wide variety of subjects are presented, giving each couple the freedom to explore each important area.
“We live in a culture that is often obsessed with finding a ‘soul mate’ to marry,” says Murray. “Seeking to find someone we are totally compatible with has merit, but it is not a biblical picture of marriage. Commitment is more important than compatibility. Jesus loves us because He decided to, in spite of our incompatibility with Him. He loves us and gave His life for us because of that commitment. AEE builds on that important truth.”
Since March of 1998, Union College in Lincoln, Neb., has also been conducting AEE weekends, following the model started at Andrews in 1978. Walla Walla University and Southern Adventist University have also hosted AEE weekends led by the Andrews team.
|AEE couples enjoyed a Love Feast held in the Department |
of Biology's lobby.
In 2004, Don Murray accepted the position of dean of men at Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and AEE was put on the shelf at Andrews. But the need and desire for AEE was still there. In August 2008, the Murrays were asked to mentor a new generation of AEE team leaders. After months of planning, the re-birth of AEE at Andrews occurred the weekend of Oct. 23–25, 2009, with 11 couples attending. One wife-to-be said, “We were impressed by all the special touches: the diversity of topics, the central focus of God’s role in our lives, the Love Feast, couple communion and our personal poster.”
AEE is Adventist in orientation, but open to any engaged couple who want to build a Christian marriage. Many couples in their first years of marriage have also participated, and come away greatly enriched by the experience. “We have even been privileged to have a number of second-generation attendees, such as a child or children of parents who attended AEE,” says Murray.
|Andrea Wincek and her fiancée, Phillip Byrd, were one of 11 |
couples who participated in the October 2009 Adventist
“Good marriages don’t just happen!” says Murray. “They must be developed through a process. The AEE experience offers couples insights, tools and confidence to enrich their relationship and strengthen their love and commitment to one another.”
As with most things in life, a new generation is ready to take the lead. “It is time for us to step away from active involvement during the AEE weekends. AEE was never just about ‘Don and Sue Murray,” says Murray. “It was always God’s AEE program. We will continue to support and be a resource to the current team, but our role will change to reflect the recognition that the time has come for a new generation of AEE leadership.”
The next AEE is scheduled for March 26–28, 2010. Registration closes on March 19, 2010. The cost for couples is $35 if both are Andrews students, $50 if one is an Andrews student and $75 if neither is an Andrews student. Contact Andrews University’s Office of Campus Ministries for details about 269-471-6241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.