Elon University hosted 130 people of all religious and spiritual faiths during the ninth Ripple Conference — which was held in McBride Gathering Center — under the theme of “Interfaith Around the World.”

Nine total universities, from both in and out of state, attended the event. Conference co-director Lucy Sneader said the event included religions and identities from around the world.

“We’re not only looking at religions within the U.S., but also globally and also looking at identities in general because your identity doesn’t have to be specifically your religion,” Sneader said.

The conference started Feb. 9 with an introduction from co-directors Sneader and Rachel Curtis. Elon Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, celebrated shabbat with music and explanations of each component of the ritual. Guilford College professor and keynote speaker Diya Abdo spoke about her work with refugees and her initiative to help rehouse them back on her campus.

“Every college and university is like a parish that should engage in radical hospitality,” Abdo said. “That should be a sanctuary that should steward its resources in ways that align with its stated values.”

On Feb. 10, participants participated in breakout sessions held by community members, students and staff. The sessions were based on both new and traditional religion practices, culture and interfaith. “Interfaith in Action” invited participants to join in on conversation over a meal with Jewish educator  Boaz Avraham-Katz, Elon Multifaith Coordinator Carrie Seigler and Duke University’s Hindu chaplain Priya Amaresh. Local coffee shop Oak House opened up space to hold the conference's ending event of the day, “Sacred Sounds.”

“The best way to learn is really from other people who have different experiences from you,” Sneader said. “I think it can show you more, not only within the Elon Community, but outside of the community.”

Feb. 11 ended with a teaching mass held by Elon Catholic Campus Ministry and a community service project. Shower kits for the Dwelling in Winston-Salem were made to provide resources to combat homelessness in North Carolina. The kits included hygienic necessities and a handwritten note or handmade origami pieces.

“Each of us here carries our own individual, spiritual, ethical or religious worldview, but yet we’re all gathered here today to collaborate and tackle these problems,” Service Project Leader Alex James said. “That is what interfaith is about.”

The conference originally started as part of the multifaith interns program, but expanded after the first time the conference was held. This year’s conference was the largest since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Kirstin Boswell summarized the event when introducing the keynote speaker. 

“Everything we do impacts and changes the world. Those are indeed the ripples that we create,” Boswel said.


Abby Gravely contributed to the reporting of this story.