Elon’s University's student-organized Ripple Conference kicked off the weekend on Friday, Feb. 21. This year’s theme of “Interfaith in the Real World: Cultivating Community Cooperation” focused on the “practical applications of interfaith.”
With the goal to “empower and inspire interfaith student leaders,” Ripple offered the opportunity to engage in social justice and interfaith dialogue through learning about religious, spiritual and secular worldviews.
The second floor of Numen Lumen housed Ripple’s Red Tent Temple throughout the weekend, a “sacred women’s space intended to be a place where all people regardless of sex, gender, or identity can come to slow down, rest, and nurture their own unique wisdom, creative energy, and feminine power.”
Offering optional mass, ju’mah prayer, and shabbat services throughout the day, Ripple began on Friday evening with a welcome dinner featuring keynote speaker Rev. Jennifer Bailey, co-founder of The People’s Supper, an organization that aims to build community through conversations despite political, racial or ideological differences.
Bailey invited all conference members to enter a “brave space” with the individuals around us, reading a poem by Mickey ScottBey Jones that states how there is no such thing as a “safe space” in the real world.
Following dinner, attendees met with their designated community group members that would serve as individuals to debrief sessions throughout the weekend and continue further interfaith dialogue with.
On Saturday, students had the opportunity to attend two breakout sessions with topics ranging from challah baking, sacred earth traditions, and contemplative practices.
During a lunch and free period, a sharing circle for LGBTQIA+ students was held to connect and share stories surrounding challenges, opportunities, and intersections for queer students in interfaith work.
After dinner, where Elon University Chaplain Jan Fuller discussed how campuses are not removed from a “real world,” a Plenary Panel was held in Whitley Auditorium featuring speakers Rev. J. Dana Trent, Kevin Singer, Katie Gordan and Elon’s Imam Shane Atkinson. Rev. Trent, ordained Baptist minister, professor, and former hospital chaplain, discussed how interfaith work is not something she can leave at outside of the home. She spoke on the importance of sitting and holding a space to cultivate empathy for others and, being married to someone of a different faith, emphasized the “deep wells” one can draw from in an authentic interfaith relationship.
Kevin Singer, co-founder of Neighborly Faith, an organization that encourages dialogue between Evangelical Christians and Muslims, spoke on the challenges he has faced in his interfaith work.
Katie Gordan emphasized that the classroom cannot be your community, the danger of religiosity, and holy envy. Through her work with Nones & Nones, a movement of Catholic Sisters and unaffiliated millennials coming together to explore community and spirituality over intergenerational divides, Gordan advised those interested in interfaith work to focus on the and what you can offer to others to create community.
Gordan, like many students attending Ripple, became involved with interfaith by trying to find a language that worked for her to ask the right questions.
All speakers emphasized a focus on serving humanity and connections between all faith traditions. Following the panel, students gathered in Numen Lumen for Sacred Sounds Coffee House where spoken word poetry, songs, and indigenous dances were shared. With the room full of students with different backgrounds and faith traditions, the conference succeeded in not just talking about interfaith, but making interfaith happen.
The conference concluded on Sunday morning with one final breakout session and community group meeting. Ending with a time for reflection and sharing of takeaways from the weekend, students were given the opportunity to share their purpose and intentions and suggestions for Ripple 2021. The conference left attendees with one question: "where will your ripples go?"