Interfaith group offers opportunity to explore Swarthmore’s religious and spiritual life

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Earlier this year, when the Office for Multicultural Affairs held the Diversity Conversation Series, one of the sessions offered dealt with religion and spirituality. Now, Swarthmore students will have a full week in which to explore the issue in the context of college life during Religion and Spirituality on Campus Week.

Actually running eight days, from Thursday, February 1 to Thursday, February 8, the week is the first in what may become an annual event that can raise awareness of the myriad religious and spiritual groups on campus and offer an opportunity for general discussion of the roles religion and spirituality play in the college environment, and Swarthmore in particular.

The Reverend Joyce Tompkins, who advises the Protestant community on campus, spearheaded the event, along with her colleagues at the Interfaith Center. Father Ed Windhaus, the Catholic advisor, and Jethro Berkman, the Jewish advisor, have played important roles in the planning of the week, as did Catherine Healy and Deoroop Matapersad, the current Interfaith Interns.

Also participating in the committee that has been organizing the events of the week are representatives of the student-run religious and spiritual groups, including the Hindu Club of Swarthmore, the Muslim Students Association, Newman Catholic Campus Ministry, Ruach, the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship, the Swarthmore Protestant Community, and others.

Most, if not all, of these groups will be hosting open meetings during Religion and Spirituality on Campus Week. Panels, speakers, and lunchtime discussions will comprise other parts of the events, which will be posted on flyers and online as the week progresses.

One of the centerpiece events will be a lecture by Dr. Denis Alexander of Cambridge University entitled “Beyond the Conflict: Similarities between Science and Faith.” Dr. Alexander is a molecular biologist and theistic evolutionist, and will answer questions after the lecture.

Some of the events already public at press time include a student panel that will explore the experience of being religious during the college years and how these four years may or may not change a person’s sense of spiritual feeling. A complementary faculty panel promises to be interesting as well, considering what it means to be a person of faith in academia and what challenges and opportunities it can pose.

The organizers will be bringing Dr. Denis Alexander of Cambridge University. Of particular relevance to Swarthmore is the panel on the role of the Religious Society of Friends, in the school’s history, and a consideration of how present the Quakers remain in the school’s culture today. Rounding out the list of panels is an exploration of the sometimes-complicated relationship between women and religion.

In all, the interfaith organizers hope that Religion and Spirituality on Campus Week “will give people a chance to explore things they have heard about but never really experienced.”

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