Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

On Saturday, April 14, six faith-based organizations met under an initiative out of the Student Affairs office to attend an annual interfaith banquet to celebrate culture, community and the importance of religion in the lives of many Golden Rams. Cru (Christian organization), Muslim Student Association, Hillel (Jewish organization), Lutheran Student Association, the Catholic Newman Center and Impact (Christian organization geared toward African Americans and minorities) were in attendance. The night consisted of socializing, prayer recited by all faith groups in attendance, dinner, a presentation and update from each organization as well as entertainment by the Newman Center Choir.

The theme for this year’s banquet was CommUNITY. Taylor McCahan, one of the main organizers of the event and member of Cru, emphasized how important she feels it is to come together and celebrate faiths and their similarities to one another.

“I think it is so cool that our university supports this initiative. It is so awesome that we have such a high attendance and interest,” said McCahan, a senior communication studies major.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for students of different faiths to come together to find common ideals that we all strive to uphold,” said Richie Fontanet, a senior history major and member of the Catholic Newman Center.

Additionally, the university has seen interest amongst some students for advanced recognition of spiritual life on campus, and therefore is investing in this community of various beliefs. A coalition is currently forming for the fall 2018 semester to include all leaders of faith-based organizations through the office of Student Affairs.

After the initial introductions, each religion shared a prayer. David Coup, a sophomore communication studies major and leader and member of Cru, read the Lord’s prayer and explained how in the Christian faith, they pray through admiration of God, confession of sin and supplication or requests and statement of needs.

Lisa Patrick and Ellie Sullum of Hillel performed a part of the Shabbat, which is practiced each week during the Sabbath of Friday sundown to Saturday at sundown. Patrick explained it to be a “journey with your senses,” where a song in Hebrew is sung in worship while a lit candle is dipped in grape juice or wine. Patrick explained if there is a sizzle, that may signify a good week to come.

She dipped the candle in the grape juice. “That was a good sizzle,” added Sullum.

Pennsylvania Senator Andy Dinniman stopped by to share a word of encouragement. “All of our faiths’ traditions share more than we are different,” explained Dinniman. He explained how he is eager to see diversity grow in our area, as the first Hindu temple is currently being built in Chester County.

“Sometimes politicians have tried to divide us through faith, but you are all young, and tonight is an affirmation that that is no longer so,” stated Senator Dinniman.

After dinner (Kosher/Halal friendly), each organization stated their mission and what they do each academic year.

Jeffrey Camp of Impact stated that at Impact, “We love community.” He shared how his Bible study helps him develop his relationship with Jesus and simply helped him discover “what it means to be a man.” Impact meets Mondays at 6 p.m. in Sykes 252.

Maddy Wyshinski, president of Cru, said Cru “is a caring community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ. We believe we are saved by believing in Jesus where we are saved by grace through faith.” Cru hosts fun events like dances and cookouts throughout the semester, retreats and Bible studies. Cru meets every Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Main 168.

Lisa Patrick explained that Hillel and “in Judaism, we are a very community-oriented people. We are an ethically-based religion and are all created in God’s image” and stressed the importance of inclusion. She showed the group a Venn diagram, dichotomized between community and Tanakh. She cited the strong history of activism in the Jewish faith and shared her own story of how Judaism has changed her life, especially while attending WCU.

Blair Cunningham, President of the Lutheran Student Association stressed how her organization is a strong social group and how integral community is to her Lutheran faith. She spoke about how Lutheran church was founded after Martin Luther’s 95 theses and the Reformation 500 years ago. They meet at Calvary Lutheran Church across the street from Schmidt Hall on Mondays at 5 p.m.

One of the banquet’s main organizers and president of the Muslim Student Association, Waneeza Mughees, broke down the tenets of Islam into three groups: equality, charity and compassion. She explained how we are all created equally and the importance of giving back, as well as serving the community. The Muslim Student Association is active in the West Chester community by serving at Safe Harbor and also promoting peace through Islam Awareness Week.

Laura Reedy described the Newman Center as “her home away from home, where we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus’ life.” She enthusiastically spoke to the group how joining the women’s group at the Catholic Newman Center (located on South New Street) was also life-changing for her, and she really enjoys  the chance to “study the word with my friends.” Mass is held Monday-Thursday at 4:30 p.m., and on Sundays at 5:30 and 9 p.m. The Catholic Newman Center holds small group Bible studies, social events and serves the community. They also host an annual Thanksgiving food drive. Reedy urged everyone to “seek out your communities” and hold fast to your convictions, because “following your faith isn’t always easy on a college campus.”

Finally, the Newman Choir finished out the night with “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong United. As the years go on, each organization hopes to continue with events like this for future students.

Amanda Mills is a fourth-year student majoring in political science. ✉ AM836938@wcupa.edu.

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