New Programs at the Center for Spirituality and Religious Life
by Rose Kathryn Lukasiewicz | published Mar. 30th, 2019
RIT is always striving to prove that we stand out from other universities. RIT does this, in part, through the spiritual and religious diversity of our students.
The Center for Spirituality and Religious Life is located in the Schmitt Interfaith Center next to the Campus Center and can be accessed through the Fireside Lounge. Student groups and religious services for our Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Zen Buddhist communities take place in the Center. However, the Center for Spirituality and Religious life is open and welcoming to all students regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.
Programs at the Center: Past, Present and Future
The Center for Spirituality and Religious Life runs different programs throughout the semester to enrich and educate students. One ongoing program is called "Tuesdays in the Chapel." This event typically starts at 2:30 p.m. and involves a talk or activity that serves to promote spiritual wellness and usually lasts 20 to 30 minutes, followed by a reception with tea and cookies. If the turnout for the program continues to rise, the Center plans to run it again in the Fall semester and onward.
Another new program that ran through the center in January was The Plug. The Plug is a program run by Glory House International where they bring the religious service to a college campus. Glory House International is a contemporary church in downtown Rochester that focuses on outreach and service. They recently celebrated their five-year anniversary. Pastor Melvin Cross Jr. is the pastor for Glory House International and also teaches at Monroe Community College. He explained what the program is about.
“The Plug is supposed to be a monthly, maybe weekly, college service just for kids who want to go to church and may not have a way to get there, so we bring the service to them,” said Cross. “We want to make sure that every population on RIT’s campus is served.”
They had around 50 people attend the first Plug service and plan to continue the service and keep working with the Center for Spirituality and Religious Life. The service seeks to get students involved and participating in a laid-back environment and safe space for everyone.
“The reason we named it The Plug is that we want them to get connected,” Cross said. “We want them to get plugged in to community.”
Future services of The Plug aren’t the only program on the horizon for the Center for Religious Life. On March 19, 2019 at 7 p.m., the Center hosted a discussion in the Fireside Lounge about religious discrimination on campus. It was an opportunity for individuals to share resources, to share stories or to get to know the staff.
On March 29, 2019, the Center for Spirituality and Religious Life, the Q Center, RIT Sustainability and the Center for Women and Gender are cosponsoring an event called Building Bridges over Brunch from 10 a.m. to noon in the Skalny Room in the Interfaith Center. It will feature a panel and discussion about the intersection of gender, sexuality and religion. Free waffles will be served at this event.
In the fall, the Center plans to run a new program that combines an element of pop culture, food and a philosophical question. Two examples mentioned were The Good Place, frozen yogurt and a discussion on what it means to be "good," as well as Doctor Who, fish fingers, custard and a discussion on what it means to be a “companion.”
Aisha Stephens, senior staff specialist for the Center for Spirituality and Religious Life, also mentioned that the Center is working with the university and the new provost, Dr. Ellen Granberg, to meet students' religious accommodations.
“We have been working really hard in making sure the university understands the types of accommodations our students need from a spiritual standpoint,” said Stephens.
The Center Giving Support
The Center not only exists to support students but serves faculty and staff as well. Monica Sanford, assistant director for Spirituality and Religious Life, is planning a talk for faculty and staff over spring break about self-care, hoping that it will improve the lives of faculty, staff and students alike.
The college years are a formative time when many people are asking themselves big questions; some choose this time to explore relationships with spirituality, whether that is religious or secular. The Center for Spirituality and Religious Life emphasizes the fact that they are a safe place for all students from the most devout to the atheistic and everyone in between. The Center is open to anyone who wants answers to life's questions, a shoulder to cry on or even just someone to talk to.
“Students experience tremendous spiritual growth when they are in college,” Sanford said. “And that’s whether or not they are involved in religion at all.”
Wajahat Awan, a third year Mechanical Engineering Technology major and member of the Muslim Student Association, thinks that the services and organizations through the Center for Religious Life are important.
“You get another home basically,” he said. “Because everyone is like you and they’re facing the same problems as you and going through the same journey as you.”
Awan said that people should know that the Center is open to everyone.
“It’s not just exclusively for religious people or anything,” he said. “You can come here just to play piano or sit in a quiet place.”
Sanford also expressed the sentiment that the center is open to all.
“We are here for every single student whether they are spiritual, whether they are religious, whether they are completely secular, whether they are vehemently opposed to religion,” Sanford said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t have these deep questions.”
Whether your beliefs are religious or spiritual or none of the above, RIT’s Center for Spirituality and Religious Life is here to answer questions, share a snack or just listen. They offer services, clubs, events, discussions and a safe place where everyone is welcome.