NEWS

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September 17, 2010

Religion on Campus

Religious persuasions at the U of C range from A to Z: Atheist to Zoroastrian, according to Reverend Elizabeth Davenport, Dean of Rockefeller Chapel.

What falls in between is just as diverse: In addition to 37 religious groups that include strong Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities, there are also less traditional networks on campus, including a secular alliance, an interfaith dialogue group, and QueeReligious, a forum and support group for students who are both homosexual and religious.

Students can take part in these networks—or build new ones—regardless of their background, Davenport says.

“Some undergraduates, particularly leaving home for the first time, may find themselves either questioning religious beliefs they inherited from their families or questioning what spirituality is about,” she said.

While its name may suggest primarily Christian offerings, Rockefeller Chapel also contains prayer rooms used by Muslim and Hindu students. The Chapel hosts a number of interreligious events as well; one of its most popular events is the interreligious Thanksgiving Day service, now in its 96th year. A Hyde Park mainstay, the service fills the Chapel to its capacity of 1,800 people each year.

For the musically inclined, a choral worship is offered at Rockefeller. You can also stop by on a Tuesdays at 4 p.m. for Tea and Pipes, which offers free tea and biscuits while University organist Thomas Weisflog plays on the chapel’s E.M. Skinner pipe organ. Or, de-stress with the Chapel’s weekly yoga, Zen meditation, and drumming circles.

The Divinity School, the University’s graduate school of religious studies, also hosts events open to undergraduates. Wednesdays at noon, the Divinity School holds lunches ($4 with a student ID) with a speaker in Swift Hall. And on October 14, the School will host a lecture by Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor in the Divinity School, titled, “Between Heaven and Hell: Politics Before the End Time.”

Davenport says the University's religious offerings let students engage with spiritual issues the same way they approach

their academics.

“We bring to it the same rigor and inquiry that we bring to everything else at the University,” Davenport said.

Such a wide array of religious and spiritual perspectives will likely be new for any student, regardless of their background. Davenport encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the experiences of their peers.

“Be open to all the new experiences that you find placed in your path here. Talk to people of different traditions; don’t be afraid when people ask about your tradition. Always be willing to ask the tough questions about what you believe and why,” she said.

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