|Dear friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:
While there are perennial tasks that have defined the work of university chaplains for generations—such as vocational discernment and service outreach—a relatively new yet enduring role now embraced by many religious life professionals is interfaith competency. Although I’ve long been a student of world religions, many institutions of higher learning have just recently become communities embracing a growing number of world faiths and philosophical worldviews. This requires that we remain curious learners and effective teachers as we interact with a global marketplace of diverse beliefs and practices. One marvelous outcome is that learning from each other in this way solidifies relationships and broadens our appreciation for the religious and spiritual “other.”
As the OUCRL engages nearly 25 religious organizations, the Vanderbilt Interfaith Council is the hub around which Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Humanists and seekers of all kinds find cohesive purpose. Every year, VIC designs a shirt with a quote that is mutually affirmed by these disparate organizations. This year’s quote comes from Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Corps . It reads: “To see the other side, to defend other peoples, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism.”
Because of this spirit of pluralism, our campus has witnessed some unique and powerful events that stem from collaborations between the OUCRL and many others who look to us for leadership and support. Our recent Chaplain’s Speaker Series event, for example, was sponsored jointly with the Muslim Student Association. Through this partnership we brought Nouman Ali Khan—an extremely popular author and speaker in the Muslim community—to a chapel filled beyond capacity with students and community members.
Another example of mutual learning was our recent Interfaith Spring Break in Washington, D.C., where students from various faith traditions and national origins were immersed in continuous dialogue and inquiry at various centers of worship and teaching. The National Cathedral, The Sixth and I Street Historic Synagogue, The Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., and the All Souls Unitarian Chapel were among the sites visited.
Please keep reading below to learn about upcoming events that expand upon the excitement we feel as we engage with our students in this final stretch of the academic year.
Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life
Project Dialogue hosts dinner series featuring Nashville scholars
It’s been an active semester for Project Dialogue—an endowed program dedicated to interfaith discourse. Throughout the remainder of the semester, we’ll bring students around the dinner table to engage in a discussion led by an esteemed scholar. Our next dinner will be led by Rosevelt Noble (pictured), senior lecturer in sociology, on March 27. Other speakers lined up are David Weintraub, professor of astronomy, on April 3, and the Rev. Jason Curry, dean of the Fisk University Memorial Chapel, on April 4.
Interfaith Council hosts marquee event March 23
The OUCRL and VIC have partnered with Interfaith Oneness Music Festival to put together an exciting night of performances. Building Bridges is an interfaith celebration that aims to express different faiths through artistic performance. The event is March 23 in the Student Life Center Ballroom and is open and free to the public. Dinner featuring foods from multiple faith traditions will be served at 6 p.m., and performances begin at 6:15 p.m.
Ecumenical Good Friday service to take place in Benton Chapel
Members of Vanderbilt’s Christian community will come together for worship on this holy day in the church. The service will take place in Benton Chapel at 12:10 p.m. April 14. Affiliated chaplains and student groups will participate in the program. All are welcome.