Interfaith Council Facilitates Conversation
A Report by Mariel Bell, '16
I am in an inviting place. The room is filled with soft lighting made by lit lamps and unlit candles, snacks, tea, coffee, and people. Waiting for the Interfaith meeting to begin in the lower level of the Helen Hills Hills Chapel, I reflect on my own experiences with religion and spirituality. While my mother grew up Catholic and my father was brought up Baptist, I grew up without a set religion; they wanted to give me the choice to choose whichever religion I felt was best for me. I was taught to be open to others beliefs and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about different religions, beliefs, and myself. But religion has always been a tricky subject for me. But then, it is a tricky subject for everyone.
The meeting starts off with introductions and the question what exactly is Interfaith Council. “Last year, we were figuring out what we wanted IFC to be. It was just a group gathering. This year we will be chartered. We want to partner with several religious groups on campus for events and discussions,” says Crystal Card ’16. “We acknowledge that conservatism has made religion taboo because it is an institution of higher learning. Taboo hinders us from having conversations, from looking at all social identities, and geopolitical implications of religion. We want to welcome people who share different aspects of religion and who may be questioning,” says the Reverend Matilda Cantwell, the Center’s multifaith fellow. “I also want us to facilitate discussions for people who want to be more religiously literate,” adds Alli Wessells ’14. She also manages to address the first-timers’ general nervousness: “You do not have to belong to a religion to be spiritual.”
We bounce off ideas for events, some coming up with events that are not exactly related to spirituality because sometimes the very topic of religion can close people off. “We also plan to work with an organization called Gardening the Community and perhaps having a spiritual mixer,” says Card. “Please don’t use the words ‘religious mixer;’ a mixer is something you go to, to meet single people,” says Wessells, causing us all to laugh.
Ideas are being created and bounced off one another such as bread baking, and bringing in a speaker to talk about the global impact of religion and to help us increase our geopolitical awareness. This soon to be chartered club is not pushing religious beliefs. It is about learning how to talk about religion without having to become an expert on every religion in existence. It is the opportunity for us to have an open dialogue, a safe place to ask questions and learn from people of different faiths. It is about bringing people together. As someone without a religion, I felt safe here. I felt comfortable to ask questions and in my identity as a person who loves to learn and is searching, constantly questioning.
*Inter-Faith Council meetings will be held on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in Bodman Lounge.