Kickoff to the Spring Semester

Hello Interfaithers,

It’s been a while, but now that I’m able to attend Interfaith Explorations meetings more regularly and a host of other interfaith events on campus, I can now give you all a better report on current interfaith campus shenanigans.

The first major interfaith event of the semester was hosted by Lighthouse, a large non-denominational Christian group on campus with connection to the Tacoma College Ministry (you can check out their awesome website, complete with blog posts by their student leaders, here:  Anyway, the topic was on Rebels and Revolutionaries, where we discussed the value of social deviance and how that applies to our spiritual lives.  I volunteered to sit on the floor as a social experiment of “deviance” from the “sitting in chairs” norm to see how many people would join my decidedly radical movement.  I gained two followers, but later lost one to a table.  Lighthouse also deviated from their usual formula (small group discussions first, then large group) by starting with a video clip and large group discussion.  Many people voiced admiration for certain movements perceived to be deviant, like becoming a nun or becoming an advocate for nonviolent resistance, as well as voicing our fears, concerns, and sacrifices we were afraid to make by pursuing these rebellious but much-appreciated lifestyles.  All in all it was a great event!

Interfaith Explorations, formerly Interfaith Council, kicked off their weekly meetings last week with a fun game whose name none of us remember.  It consists of attempting to decipher other people’s pictures into English sentences or vice versa, like a blend of pictionary and telephone.  My first sentence was “and if you seek the Mystery, if you find it not within yourself, you will never find it outside of yourself,” which admittedly was a hard and very cruel thing for me to ask my peers to translate into a picture.  Needless to say I shouldn’t have been surprised that the final result was “Why is my heart on fire?!”  This meeting was such a fun, great, and relaxing way to start off the new semester.

IE’s second meeting was led by a student, Ashley, who wanted to discuss what it was like to be religious (or non-religious) in the United States, and what our experiences were like growing up.  We found that it depended a lot on where you lived.  For example, Ashley went to a Catholic high school where being religious was a gateway into the bottom recesses of the social food chain, whereas in my school, also a Catholic high school, the more religious you were, the more popular you became.  Some of us voiced concern about feeling like we’re always on the defense of our non-traditional spiritual views, while others worried about not offending others (especially atheists) with open discussions about God and faith.  This meeting drew a whopping 15 people, more than the usual IE meeting, and the discussion was deep and enlightening.

Interfaith Explorations meets every week, Wednesdays at 5:30 in the Multifaith Room (Kilworth Chapel basement).  Lighthouse Unplugged (the dinner discussions) happen once a month on a Tuesday at 7:30pm, and their regular meetings/services happen at all of the other Tuesdays at 8:30pm, all in the Kilworth Chapel basement.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures!


Taste of Religion, version 2.0

Hello everyone,

It’s been quite a while–things got very busy, but I am proud to say that our interfaith campaigning went very well last year! 

Our first interfaith event of the 2012-2013 year was a wonderful second installment of the now-traditional Taste of Religion.  This event happened 7pm in the Piano Lounge of the SUB on 9/12.  And to say that “it was a hit!” is an understatement!  We fed and entertained over 60 people with delicious, spiritual food.  Highlights were the vegan apple pie, representing NeoPaganism; samosas, representing Islam; Japanese curry rice, representing an international Christian community that alumnus Micah Coleman-Campell attended growing up; potato knishes, representing Judaism; Ghormeh sabzi, a traditional Persian stew representing Baha’i; Scandinavian vegetarian meatballs and monkey bread, representing the Swedish heritage of many Lutheran Christians; Pav Bhaji, a vegetarian dish representing Jainism and other spiritual traditions of India; and white rice, a universal food provided by Dave Wright, our University Chaplain.

We had those who submitted the recipies stand up in front of the congregation of happily munching event-goers to explain the signifiance of their food to their tradition.  This talk also helped to put a face to these traditions, as sometimes people think as “religion” as this monolith of “religious people” that are “out there,” when really they are right here all around us, and many of those “religious people” are our friends!

We had several people come up and tell us how wonderful the food was (thanks Catering!) and how much fun it was to learn about religions they may never have heard of, or at least providing a new dimension to their religious knowledge, through food and sharing stories. 

We hope to have another awesome Taste of Religion next year!

Our best,
the Interfaith Coordinators

Taste of Religion!

By far one of our most successful events this year has been Taste of Religion, drawing over 50 students.  I borrowed this idea from a Stanford University student I met at an interfaith leadership conference at Princeton University.  It goes like this: people submit tasty recipies, we have them made, we bring them to a public space, everyone on campus is free to partake, and we learn something along the way!  The purpose of this event is to raise awarness about the diversity of religions represented on our campus and the kinds of awesome cultural things that come with being religious, namely FOOD!

One of our beloved Interfaith Coordinators, Mary Krauszer, made us an awesome poster to help attract people to our event, which we held in the Piano Lounge in the SUB.  The line for was to the right, and to the left you can see Mary signing up for some cool interfaith and community service opportunities for this year.

The table had two sides, and in front of each item there was a brief statement about the food, where it comes from, why it is important, and who submitted the recipe.  Here you can see some people loading up their plates for the feast:

We had submissions from a variety of traditions, including Methodist Christian, Lutheran Christian, Jainism, NeoPaganism, Baha’i, Islam, and Judaism, among others!  Check out Mary’s awesome veggie “meat” balls, which represent traditional Swedish meat balls that are often a part of the Lutheran religious/cultural heritage: 

A man who strives for inclusion and equality on campus, our university chaplain Dave Wright was eager to supply a food item common to many cultures and traditions that complemented our other selections:

After a while, we had our recipe submitters gather in the Piano Lounge where many people were enjoying their food.  They shared what they brought, why they brought it, and any other fascinating and relevant tidbits about how religion and culture has shaped their identity. 

Overall this event was a huge hit, and we vowed to make the inclusion of food a more-or-less fundamental aspect of any future interfaith events we host.  In fact, this event was so successful that the Interfaith Council decided to change their club name to Taste of Religion! 


The Kickoff

To start the year, we hosted a kickoff event in the Murray Boardroom in early September and invited many notable students, faculty, and staff, particularly those who were directly involved.  Invitations were extended also to freshmen in particular in order to capture their interest in the idea that we could engage interfaith and community service issues as early as possible in their college careers. 

The purpose of the kickoff event was to help raise awareness about the White House Initiative and generate interest in the various programs that were supported by this Initiative, including several CIAC (Community Involvement and Action Center) youth programs like ETC Tutoring, Kids Can Do!, and Food Salvage; Interfaith Council; JuST (Justice and Service in Tacoma), a group dedicated to exploring issues of injustice and volunteering; and more.  We had a few key speakers share a little bit about the program from both a professional staff/student affairs perspective, and I spoke on behalf of the project as its main student coordinator to share a student’s perspective.  And I got to meet Marcus Luther, our student body president! 

Signing up for clubs and service opportunities was a gleeful experience.  Check out the proof of my excitement as I juggle a vegan wrap in the other hand:

One of the things I noticed about the kickoff event was that we did not have as many attendees as we hoped.  This fact is due perhaps to any number of issues, from being busy at the beginning of the school year to not seizing the best advertising opportunities.  This experience showed us how much we can improve in our marketing of future events and helped us to see our weaknesses in generating interest.  Other than that, I think the event was a success!

A major core component of the White House Initiative is to create a campus that better embraces religious identity.  People should feel comfortable in their own skin and be able to name and claim their values.  In order to implement this value at the kickoff event, I organized a photobooth where willing attendees held up signs declaring their spiritual affiliation.  Some of us were creative or purposefully ambiguous in describing our religious leanings.  Enjoy some of the pictures below!  I’ve captioned them just in case they are too hard to read. 

My name is Dave and I practice Being Human!

My name is Gamachu and I am a Muslim.

My name is Ian and I practice Agnostic Judaism.

My name is Isaac and I practice "Buddish" Meditation.

My name is Mary Krauszer and I am a pastor's kid and interfaith coordinator.

My name is Nico and I am a Christian.

And how could I resist throwing in some of my own heterodoxy? 

My name is Rebecca and I am a heretic!

Well it’s about time!

This blog was creating to track the implementation of the White House Initiative throughout this year, yet because of the busy event plannings and activities, I’m afraid that this blog was neglected! Nonetheless, I shall start from the beginning and work my way to the present to help document what exactly has been going on this year at Puget Sound.

The White House Initiative is our fancy little term to shorten the very wordy “The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.” What this Challenge or Initiative seeks to accomplish is eliminate hostility between religious groups on college campuses, instead implementing techniques and creating events to bring people together in conversation, community, and service. And, really, what better way to do so than establishing a commitment to community service! By rallying these groups together and working on service projects together, we can start conversations that focus on the values that we have in common. This way of thinking can help us see the similarities, rather than just the differences, in each other and learn to respect the inspirations of other people that help them create a better world.

Last summer, Puget Sound faculty (especially our chaplain Dave Wright!) put together a proposal for the Campus Challenge and sent it off to the White House. This proposal included plans about who we would work with, how we would establish connections, and what our expectations and conclusions hope to look like by creating an initiative for greater interfaith cooperation and community service on our campus. Much of our proposal spoke of things that we have already implemented and hoped to expand–like Alternative Fall/Spring Breaks and Interfaith Council–as well as some new projects like creating better advertisements, creating and hosting retreats, and hiring staff to help better connect clubs and other organizations to our Community Initiative and Action Center–the hub of community service and social justice opportunities on campus and beyond! We hoped to increase community service overall in the general campus culture as well as in established religious groups.

Our proposal was approved by the White House and even got special mention at the big Campus Challenge conference that Dave Wright attended last summer!

My job this year is to help oversee, support, and encourage this movement on our campus. I do things like attend Interfaith Council meetings (now called Taste of Religion, meets on Thursdays at 5pm in the basement of Kilworth if you’re interested!), JuST meetings (Justice and Service in Tacoma, meets Mondays at 5pm in Wheelock 201), and Alternative Breaks to monitor how many people participate, why, and how they found out about our little shindigs. I also track the implementation of service opportunities in a variety of religious and spiritual groups on campus. Some of my personal projects have been establishing a regular weekly meditation time and organizing an EcoSpirituality Retreat.

I’ll update this blog in a short while to chronologize and analyze the various wonderful and inspiring events and clubs that have been going on this year!

You can view the government’s page for the Campus Challenge here: