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.
Yesterday Swarthmore College began Religion and Spirituality week, a week centered around the diverse religious life both on campus and in the world beyond. Hosted by the Interfaith Center with exciting contributions from all of Swat’s faith-based organizations, Religion and Spirituality Week is designed to encourage students to explore the various facets of spiritual life on campus.
Joyce Tompkins, the campus Protestant Religious advisor, has been facilitating meetings between groups and offering moral support during the week’s development process. “But really, it’s the students who are doing so much work,” she adds. Tompkins spoke of the students’ plans for activities and features, which include speakers on feminism in Islam, religious and social justice, Why Religion Matters, and study of texts from multiple faiths.
Each religious group will be hosting a service, and the second floor of McCabe will feature a display of religious books all week long. “Many of the things happening this week are things that happen every week,” says Virginia Tice ’09, one of Religion and Spirituality Week’s coordinators. This week was designed in part to expose these activities to the broader campus and “de-mystify” many of the campus’s religious groups.
May Maani ’10, another coordinator, remarks that she is “looking forward to having more of the campus involved in these religious activities. Many people have preconceptions about what they’ll see, and this gives them a chance to rethink those preconceptions.”
One such activity that will certainly challenge many a preconceived notion will be Bill Cook’s talk on “Why Religion Matters.” Cook is a SUNY professor, described as “just awesome!” by Tice, and will be giving a talk on the importance of religion throughout history and in modern times. His past talks on subjects such as early Christianity have proven both lucid and very funny, and this talk is “perfectly tailored to this campus,” says Tice.
The hope for this week is that many people on the Swarthmore campus will participate in the broad range of activities, while both enjoying themselves and enhancing their awareness of Swarthmore’s sometimes understated but rich spiritual life. Both Tice and Maani voiced that the campus is generally accepting of their involvement in religious communities. Many, however, feel that it can sometimes be a challenge. “I think at a place like Swarthmore, which is very intellectual, people harbor the misconception that one can’t be both intellectual and religious,” says Tompkins. “And I am a believer that intellectual vigor and religious life can overlap in a positive way.”