September 5, 2008



The Rev. Kim Woeste, United Campus Ministry, 657-2165
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269 


NASA astronauts Frank Borman and Loren Acton part of presentations


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The steadfast frenzy of a new academic year swirls around the Rev. Kim Woeste.  Students, arms jammed with textbooks and minds filled with class schedules, course through the Montana State University Billings Student Union Building on new educational explorations.


She takes it all in with a calm smile.  As director of the ecumenical United Campus Ministry, and other faith-based groups associated with MSU Billings work to provide opportunities for students to explore faith, find a respite from busy life and school challenges and be a part of a Christian community.  Between nabbing free pieces of candy, students stop to visit periodically.


Kim WoesteBut Woeste, who has served as the MSU Billings campus minister for the past six years, is on another mission.  She wants to open the mystery of the universe in both a spiritual and scientific method.  The goal is to not only raise some discussion but also raise some money for United Campus Ministry at MSU Billings.


On Sept. 22-23, United Campus Ministry is hosting “Community Outreach to the Heavens,” featuring NASA astronauts Frank Borman and Loren Acton and NASA aerospace education specialist Brian Hawkins. The event will include presentations to Billings-area schools, a presentation on Acton’s research on solar activity and a fund-raising dinner and auction.


The events at MSU Billings are open to anyone.


Woeste said she was inspired to design the program after hearing Acton talk about his religious beliefs in connection to his scientific research.


Action has talked eloquently about the mysteries of both faith and science, Woeste said, and “we thought the university would be a good place to tie together those concepts of science and spirituality.”


Exploration of faith issues, work toward justice, healing and a community environment are a part of the stated mission of United Campus Ministry. The interest in space and exploration, Woeste said, is an outgrowth of that mission and the events are designed to encourage the university and Billings community to integrate education and spirituality.


Space exploration and faith exploration are both full of mystery, she noted, and those paths do not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The events include:

  • Monday, Sept. 22: Presentations at area schools by Hawkins, a specialist who works on aerospace education with schools across the country.
  • Monday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.: Acton, a physicist and astronaut, will give his presentation “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” in Petro Theatre on the MSU Billings main campus. Acton, who is a research professor of physics at Montana State University in Bozeman, has logged over 190 hours in space. His lecture will highlight his research on solar activities, including solar activity that wreaked havoc in 1859.The lecture is free and open to the public.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 23, 5:30 p.m.: Borman, commander of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, will be the keynote speaker when United Campus Ministry hosts an evening of fine dining and entertainment.  Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon and Borman is remembered as a pioneer in the history of space flight. He is remembered for reading from the book of Genesis as Apollo 8 orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1968.

The Tuesday evening event is a fundraiser for United Campus Ministry and features a silent auction and a live auction. Some auction items will include artwork by Neil Jussila, John Pollock, Ben Steele, Jon Lodge, Connie Landis, Linda Snider as well as a guided fly-fishing trip the Bighorn River, an hour of private flying time and private art lessons.


Tickets to the dinner are $40 each and tables of eight can be sponsored for $400.


United Campus Ministry has been serving the students and learning community of MSU Billings for 40 years. It has been funded through denominational giving from Presbyterians and United Methodists, with additional support from the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Lutheran (ELCA), Episcopal and American Baptist churches. As denominational funds are stretched thinner, the events will be used to raise awareness and effectiveness of the organization for the next 40 years, Woeste said. 

“This will be a great outreach for us,” she said.


For more information, contact Woeste at 657-2165 or by e-mail at