Students Speak: Spiritual Life and Religious Diversity at Westminster
BY STEFANIE EGGLESTON
Westminster is a diverse campus, not just in country of origin, but in religion. Through Thursday-at-11 events, and organizations like Interfaith Advisory Board (IAB), the Spiritual Life office strives to introduce the student body to and embrace all the different faith traditions represented on campus.
To learn more about the many religions Westminster students practice, The Columns talked with various members of IAB, Westminster’s chaplains and others involved in Spiritual Life on campus.
Ayush Manandhar, ’17, works as the Coordinator for IAB and practices Buddhism.
“I really appreciate how the office and the campus in general has a tradition of embracing different traditions from multifarious parts of the world,” Manadhar said. “The Spiritual Life staff, while organizing different events, tries [its] best to represent underrepresented traditions on campus. This allows the exchange of knowledge and openness in the community.”
Lucy Savio, ’18, practices Catholicism and is a member of the Praise and Worship team, which leads monthly chapel services and Evensong.
“The school I went to before coming to Westminster didn’t really have a specific place where you can share your faith,” she said. “The first time when I heard about the existence of Spiritual life in Westminster, I thought it is amazing that finally now I have space where I can practice my believe and my faith in general.”
Savio also lives in the Interfaith House with four other people of different religions.
“I am very happy that the fact that we have different religions does not become a barrier for us to live together and celebrate our faith together,” she added.
Sawyer Young, ’18, is interested in all religions, but he identifies as a Toaist. He is a member of IAB, where he represents Eastern philosophy and Universalism.
“Each member of IAB is willing to talk to you about our differences,” he said. “That’s what makes IAB special. We teach and learn together, addressing differences with respect instead of not addressing them at all.”
Reese Leech, ’17, is Pagan Wicca. She is a member of IAB and has given several presentations on her faith tradition. She said she is grateful that Westminster has accepted her and that she has had increasing attendance at all of these presentations.
“I feel that overall reaction to my spirituality has been abundantly positive,” Leech said. “I was very nervous to begin sharing my faith tradition, but many people were eager to learn and had many questions.”
Isaac Coronel, ’17, is a part of the Southern Baptist and Latter Day Saints faiths. He sings and plays cello, viola and violin the Praise and Worship Team.
“The Spiritual Life of Westminster College has brought so much comfort for my dedication to religion,” he said. “They are very open to the various religions from all over the world. And the best part is that no one judges you and no one tells you how to run your own religion. I feel if this is the way the real world would play their role in religion, there would be less issues like wars.”
Jamie Haskins and Maeba Jonas are Westminster’s chaplains.
“The spiritual life office works to create a welcoming space where all are safe,” Haskins said. “Maeba and I see the diversity of faith traditions as a gift. We seek to really learn from each other about what our different faith traditions offer. Religion can be used as a weapon or a tool for violence or hatred, but at Westminster we view religion as a chance for peace and love.”