Coming Together: College Multi-Faith Councils (2005)

First Annual Gathering of College Multi-Faith Councils Convenes at Princeton University

On February 17, 2005, over 90 students representing over 30 colleges and universities from across the country convened on Princeton University’s campus for the first annual national gathering of college multi-faith councils, “Coming Together: A Venture across Religious Boundaries.”

Planned and led by students, “Coming Together” was created as a resource for students across the country to learn from one another about interfaith councils. Some students arrived with the intention of starting an interfaith council on their campus while others came to share what they had learned from pre-existing college councils. Classes such as “Multi-Faith Councils 101” and “The Challenges of Creating Sacred Spaces in the University Setting” were offered for students to attend. Various discussion groups and brainstorming sessions were also available. In addition, students received an opening address from Steve Waldman, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet.com.

Rabia Ali, conference organizer, said, “‘Coming Together’ was an effort to bring together young people who have been involved in interfaith work, so that they could share their experiences and ideas with each other.” Much of the conference was spent around tables planning mission statements and programming ideas. However, one of the great assets of the conference was the opportunity for students to participate in an array of religious activities. In equal proportion to the many different religious traditions represented by students, “Coming Together” hosted Buddhist, Catholic, Baha’i, Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish services of worship, prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not., and meditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo....

Paul Raushenbush, Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton, noted beforehand that their “hope is that there’ll be a loose federation of interfaith councils.” In part, the success of “Coming Together” is seen in its continuation; next year Johns-Hopkins University will host the conference, and the following two years, the University of Southern California, and Penn State will host respectively. There are also plans to form a national steering committee, hopes for an inter-collegiate interfaith journal, and Waldman has offered a message board on Beliefnet for the conference.

Students identified themselves as Jewish, Catholic, MormonThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, was launched by Joseph Smith (1805-44) who discovered a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which became, along with the Bible, the “latter day” scripture of the new commu..., AmishThe Amish are Protestant Christians of Anabaptist origin, beginning in Europe in the late 16th century with commitment to the adult “believer’s” baptism and to pacifism. In the U.S., the Amish in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other parts of the Midwest ha..., Muslim, Unificationist, Baha’i, Progressive ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists..., Spiritual, Seeker, Unitariana belief in one God that rejects the three persons of the Trinity that has much in common with the belief in the early Christian church about the superiority of God over Jesus and the Anti-Trinitarian writing that emerged during the Protestant Reformation... Universalist, LutheranLutheranism is a Protestant tradition following the theology of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the reformer who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and launched the German reformation. He emphasized the sole authority of the Bible, the priesthoo..., PresbyterianPresbyterian is the general name for churches governed by elected presbyters or elders and refers especially to Reformed churches in Scotland and England that shaped Presbyterian churches worldwide. The church is distinguished both from those in which aut..., Buddhist, Druid, Hindu, SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob..., Christian ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... (Disciples of Christ), MethodistThe Methodist church is a Protestant communion of churches which began in England with John Wesley (1703-91) and has become a worldwide movement. In the U.S., the United Methodist Church—one of the largest Protestant denominations—is known for its str..., Non-denominational, EpiscopalEpiscopal refers to any church in which authority is vested in a bishop (Greek episkopos). More particularly it refers to the Episcopal Church in America, which developed from the Church of England after the American Revolution. and Buddhist, SiddhaSiddha means accomplished or perfected, one who has attained spiritual realization. In the Jain tradition, an enlightened and liberated soul is called a Siddha. Such a soul does not need a body, but transcends the cycle of life and death and dwells in mok... YogaYoga is a Sanskrit word, deriving from a verb meaning “to yoke” or “to join.” Body and consciousness are joined together in the discipline of yoga. Yoga practice involves ethical restraints, the mastery of bodily postures (called asanas), the cont..., and PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga.../WiccanWicca is the name of one of the major streams of contemporary American Paganism. It is a form of religious witchcraft, sometimes simply called the Craft. Many Wiccans in America today call themselves “witches,” claiming the name under which women and ....

Source: Chan, Belda. “‘Coming Together’ Sparks Interfaith Dialogue on Campus, DAILYPRINCETONIAN.COM, http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/archives/2005/02/18/news/12065.shtml?type=printable, 14 September 2005. [Editor’s note 2016: now available at http://dailyprincetonian.com/news/2005/02/coming-together-sparks-interfaith-dialogue-on-campus/.]