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Religious Life Newsletter – September 2017

Posted by on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 in newsletter.

Religious Life E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]
September 2017
Dear friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

The life of our university community is never removed from the world that surrounds us. This is Mark-Forresterespecially true as we consider the fact that greater numbers of our students every year are shaped by a plurality of identities rooted within religion, race, ethnicity, geography and socio-economic status. When neo-Nazis and the KKK march openly in places like Charlottesville, using tactics of violence and intimidation to silence those who are not white and of the Christian faith, the ripple-effect is felt on our campus as we persevere to be a safe and welcoming “home away from home” for all.  This is especially challenging in the sphere of religious life because our chaplains and religious professionals representing multiple traditions—Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and others—are focused on the mutual task of peacemaking, even while others distort and discredit faiths that essentially embody a redemptive and reconciling worldview.

The OUCRL has always kept this struggle for freedom and dignity alive as we revisit history to seek wisdom and guidance. One of the greatest examples of this discipline—to remember and honor the past so as not to repeat it—is the Holocaust Lecture Series, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the longest-running program on the Holocaust in American higher education, we have invited Pulitzer-winning Holocaust historian and memoirist Saul Friedlander to be our keynote speaker Sept. 26. To find out more about this and seven other HLS programs—co-sponsored by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, the Jewish Federation of Middle Tennessee, Blair School of Music, the Jewish Film Festival, Vanderbilt Law School, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and many student organizations and academic departments—follow this link.

In addition to this high moment of the 40th HLS anniversary, we have other exciting news to share below: Rev. Shantell Hinton joined our staff in June as assistant chaplain and assistant director of religious life; Gordon Maples became the OUCRL graduate assistant in August; Maria Bednar is our Divinity School intern; legacy programs, such as Project Dialogue, are a weekly feature of our programming; we hosted the first OUCRL Lawn Classic, and more!


Reverend Mark Forrester

New Project Dialogue series: ‘The Shop’

“The Shop” is a new series under Project Dialogue, in which students of color will engage in dialogical exchanges of wisdom with pastors, activists, professors, and elders from the greater Nashville community concerning the trending cultural topics that impact the lives of people of color. These conversations will focus on the intersections of Black spirituality, faith and activism and will give students of color the opportunity to explore faith from different perspectives. In addition, “the Shop” will offer cultural meals from local restaurants owned by persons of color.

The next session of “the Shop” will be Oct. 18 at noon in the OUCRL Fireside Lounge. It will feature Pastor John Faison Sr., and the topic of discussion will be “The Relevance of the Black Church.”

Grief Support Specialist
Rev. Gretchen Person, OUCRL’s associate university chaplain and associate director of religious life, recently completed course requirements for certification as a grief support specialist. This certificate program, offered through the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is the first of its kind in the nation at a major university. Class participants acquire knowledge and skills to enhance or create a professional specialty that focuses on counseling people who have suffered from a major loss, whether the result of death, divorce, unemployment, destruction due to drug abuse, or any traumatic personal devastation.
Project Dialogue

For the Project Dialogue series “Bridge Building,” speakers engage with students at the dinner table over the question “How can we effectively build relationships that will influence the affairs of the world in ways that are just, inclusive and compassionate?” The next Bridge Building session will be Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the OUCRL building, and will feature
Dr. Nahed Artoul Zehr of the Faith & Culture Center of Nashville.

The Project Dialogue series “Science and Religion” seeks to explore possible intersections—or lack thereof—between science and religion. Rebekah Austin, a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Vanderbilt, was the first presenter in September. Upcoming conversation leaders include Rev. Shantell Hinton, Sandra Barnes and Dr. Donna Whitney. The next Science and Religion event will be Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the OUCRL.

The Project Dialogue “Food for Thought” series invites faculty speakers to share their vocational journey with students (over a meal from Grins Café), by responding to the question, “How did you decide to do what you do?” Donna Ford captivated students with her story at our September dinner; the next event will feature Dr. Catherine Fuchs, director of the Psychological and Counseling Center at Vanderbilt, to be held Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the OUCRL.

Vanderbilt Synesis

On Sept. 16, Vanderbilt Synesis, a Christian publication that promotes the integration of faith and intellectual inquiry, hosted an event sponsored by the Veritas Forum and Fare Forward featuring Justin Hawkings, a Ph.D. student of religion and political theory at Yale University. Hawkings talked about the greater meaning of grace from a Christian perspective, and drew a crowd of nearly 50 attendees.

Welcome Shantell, Maria, and Gordon!

In June, Rev. Shantell Hinton was brought on board as the assistant chaplain and assistant director of religious life. She recently graduated with a master of divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she was awarded the Kelly Miller Smith Institute for Black Church Studies Certificate, the Luke–Acts Prize, the Liston O. Mills Award, and the Florence Conwell Prize.

Maria Michonski is the new chaplain intern for the office. She is a second-year graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she is pursuing her master of divinity. She earned her B.A. in theology and women’s & gender studies from Saint Louis University in 2016. Along with her position as chaplain intern for the OUCRL this year, she is the graduate student worker/graduate assistant in the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt.

In August, Gordon Maples joined the office as the new graduate assistant. Gordon is in the Higher Education Administration program at Vanderbilt, studying to be a student affairs professional. He was previously the senior campus organizer for the national Secular Student Alliance, a role which had him speak and present at numerous interfaith events during his five years of employment.

Upcoming events

Project Dialogue: Bridge Building with Dr. Nahed Artoul Zehr, Faith & Culture Center of Nashville; Sept. 26, 5:30 p.m., OUCRL

Holocaust Lecture Series: “Where Memory Leads” with Saul Friedlander; Sept. 26, 7 p.m., Flynn Auditorium, Vanderbilt Law School

Vanderbilt Interfaith Council meetings: 5:30 p.m. every other Thursday (next: Sept. 28), OUCRL Fireside Lounge

Project Dialogue: Food For Thought with Dr. Catherine Fuchs, director of the Vanderbilt Psychological and Counseling Center; Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m., OUCRL

Project Dialogue: Science & Religion; Oct. 16, 5:30 p.m., OUCRL

Holocaust Lecture Series: “Voices of Hope and Resistance” with Roman Kent; Oct. 24, 7 p.m., Board of Trust Room, Student Life Center

Vanderbilt University Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life
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