Religious diversity abounds on campus

stacy.milbourn

We’ve all seen the flyers on the wall and the murals in the underground walkways advertising various organizations promoting their faith and spirituality, inviting
one and all to come and pray. But there are many more spiritual groups on campus that are not as well known. Many of these groups have only a handful of members, but are always looking for new people who are interested in learning about their beliefs.

Many of them are denomination specific (although none are exclusive), such as the Lutheran Student Movement and Apostolic Students for Christ, while some are more general.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship originated in Cambridge, Mass. in the 1940s, and can now be found on more than 550 campuses nationwide. NMU’s InterVarsity branch has an average of 20 to 40 students that attend its Thursday night meetings.

“InterVarsity is a place where people from all kinds of Christian denominational backgrounds gather for fellowship, worship and prayer. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do try to take God seriously,” said InterVarsity member Anders Gillis.

In addition to meetings, InterVarsity also has weekly group Bible studies and has helped organize workers for Habitat for Humanity and Room at the Inn. They have also formed intramural sports teams and conducted video scavenger hunts in the past.

“We did this with the hope that it would help build empathy, awareness and a conscientious student body that has a passion for social justice,” said Gillis.

Anyone is encouraged to attend InterVarsity meetings, even if they do not practice Christian faith.

“You’re welcome as long as you’ve showered in the past month,” he said. “Well, actually, even if you haven’t, come anyway.”

Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, is a national organization. NMU’s branch is part of the Soref Initiative, with the slogan, “Small and Mighty.”

The Soref Initiative allows schools with small Jewish populations a chance to study and celebrate their religion. NMU’s Hillel organization has six to eight members
that consistently attend meetings. This number is an increase from the three to five students that attended last year.

“We’re really excited in the ways that Hillel is growing,” said president, Kylynn Perdue-Bronson.

Many of Hillel’s activities involve the synagogue, Temple Beth Shalom, in Ishpeming. If the organization hears about activities
the synagogue or community members are participating in, the group’s members often attend. Members carpool to regular Friday
and holiday services.

“We try to celebrate holidays that aren’t specifically covered by Temple Beth Shalom as best we can while living super secular
lives,” Purdue-Bronson says. “Last year we did our own Tu B’shevat (tree celebration/harvest festival) Seder.”

Hillel also gets together for recreational
activities, such as bowling and movie nights. Because of the small number of members, the organization often partners with other student organizations on campus to present events. Last year the group helped OUTlook present, “Trembling before G-d” and is currently hoping to present a movie with the History Club this semester.

Hillel participates in many charity activities, such as Adopt-a-Family and has filled shoeboxes for the homeless.

The Student Interfaith Club is currently on a break, since advisor professor Mohey Mowafy went on sabbatical. However, Mowafy hopes to get old and new members back into the group.

“The Student Interfaith Club is not about promoting any faith, but rather in promoting interfaith and inter-spiritual harmony and mutual respect,” said Mowafy. “I believe we live in a place where such goals are respected and actually reachable.”

There is currently no set day or time for the club’s meetings, but if interested in joining the group, contact Mowafy at [email protected]

Presque Isle Zen Community aims to introduce students to the practice of Zen Buddhism and allow them a place to practice the religion while attending NMU.

The club’s main activities are Zazen, which is seated meditation, chanting services and Dharma talks. The organization has also worked with environmental groups over the years.

“In our culture, the word ‘Zen’ can mean anything,” says Presque Isle Zen Community advisor and NMU English professor Paul Lehmberg. “The result is that students sometimes come to the temple with solidified and erroneous ideas about what Zen is. It’s hard to do, of course, but it’s best to leave your preconceptions at the door. Zen is first of all a practice, and only secondarily a set of beliefs. We’re not after ‘bliss;’ we are after wakefulness and mindfulness-attention to here and now.”

These are just a few of the many diverse spiritual organizations NMU’s campus has to offer. For a complete list of faith-based organizations at NMU, visit the Center for Student Enrichment’s Web site.