Interfaith dialogue has always been an important goal for the Truitt Center for Religious Life, but this year the center is making it its No. 1 focus through new staff, programming and initiatives.
The Rev. Joel Harter was hired as Protestant Chaplain, Rabbi Rebecca Joseph was brought on as Hillel Director and Jewish Chaplain and Father Gerry Waterman was promoted to Catholic Chaplain. These three leaders represent the three largest religious subsets on campus.
“The restructuring was absolutely necessary. Different religions approach life in different ways and need a leader of their particular perspective to help guide them through the spiritual discussions unique to college students,” Junior Alli Ginsburgy, Hillel president said. “Being able to have a voice for each of these three makes the interfaith religious discussions less biased.”
Diana Abrahams was hired as the multifaith and intern coordinator after graduating from Elon last spring. She will lead the Truitt Center interns and help coordinate the multifaith engagement program, which is new this year.
Twelve students will be taking part this semester and learning how to lead interfaith dialogue.
University Chaplain Jan Fuller said she expects to have fun with this group and with the other new programs this year.
Fuller is running a new series of lecture presentations starting in September called Unlikely Partners, with talks by multi-faith couples. The first couple presenting will be a Southern Baptist minister and her husband, a Hindu monk.
“This is really highlighting how two people are living across religious differences and how they make it work and maintain their integrity,” Fuller said.
Read more from Fuller about the new multi-faith initiative
Harter will introduce a new program called One. It will be a Christian worship service Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Numen Lumen Pavilion.
The first worship will take place on Aug. 27. It will be a Taize-style worship, which is a continuous worship style relying on songs, chants and meditation periods. There will be another Taize-style worship in partnership with Catholic Campus Ministry on Sept. 24 in Holt Chapel.
“I’m really excited about this,” Harter said. “My experience is that this is a good way to not only get Protestants together, but to get Protestants and Catholics together on college campuses. I’m really hopeful it will resonate here.”
Sophomore Carolyn Rauch, a member of LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians and Friends) said she is looking forward to the protestant worship service and getting involved with other protestant groups on campus.
“There has been a lot of talk about multifaith initiative at Elon. I think it’s important that Christian groups recognize that multifaith includes them,” Harter said. “We are part of that diversity. We want to provide opportunities for all students to engage because multifaith includes Christianity.”
While Ginsburg is pleased with the multifaith initiative, she would like to try to get more people involved in the community.
“I want to see more outreach,” Ginsburg said. “The people attending these opportunities are those who are already interfaith-minded. Let’s educate the broader community about religious experience outside of their own.”
One way the Truitt Center is attempting to reach more students is through its interns. Each of the seven interns has been will be a residential contact for a different neighborhood on campus.
“We want them to give out information and hopefully bring students over and help us determine what the needs of the students are,” Fuller said.
Numen Lumen, formally College Chapel, is the Truitt’s Center’s weekly program held on Thursday mornings at 9:40. Fuller wants to encourage more students to attend this semester. This year, attendees discuss an enduring question each week.
“We want to be a part of asking the big questions, like ‘What does it mean to be a human being?’ or ‘What does it mean to be a person of faith open to other people of faith?,’” Fuller said. “So we’ll have a different question every week and a chance to really discuss our answers.”
According to Fuller, the Truitt Center will attempt to make students think critically.
“We’re not trying to make students think a certain way or believe a certain thing, but we want students to really think about who they are and what they want and what kind of world they want to live in.”