Connect, support and develop: spiritual life on campus

Korri Wojack – Staff Writer

Nearly sixty years ago, Christ Chapel was dedicated on campus. Through the years, there have been over three hundred weddings, six Gustavus presidential inaugurations, forty-seven Christmas in Christ Chapels, and so much more to celebrate. Established as a Lutheran college, Gustavus has always been well known for its focus on worship and praise. However, it’s the welcoming inclusivity that makes the spiritual community here at Gustavus so special.
Nearly every major religion from all over the world is represented by the Gustavus student body, as well as many secular traditions. According to Chaplain Maggie Falenschek, the largest groups include Christianity (which contains a huge diversity of traditions within Christianity), students who are not affiliated with a particular religious tradition, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judiaism, and Shamanism. Also, many students define themselves as spiritual, but not necessarily religious. Gustavus welcomes all with open arms and offers many spaces to pray.
Between the Bonnier Multifaith Center, Christ Chapel, and anywhere else students feel spiritually home, there are plenty of peaceful spots on campus to utilize. The Bonnier Multifaith Center is located in Anderson Hall, and is open anytime Anderson is. Most of the time the Multifaith Center is used by students for reflection, meditation, personal prayer, yoga, silence, and other spiritual and religious practices.
The Chapel is open all day to students as well, though there tends to be more structured activities going on during that time. Musical ensemble rehearsals, organ lessons, etc., all take place within the Chapel, but the space is still open for all. If a student finds their spiritual place on campus to be outside, there are plenty of outdoor spaces too. The Arboretum also has many mysteries to explore and use for spiritual reflection, such as the labyrinth, meditation garden, walking trails, and other places that students can connect with the beauty of the natural world.
As many students know, no classes are allowed to be held between 10:00 and 10:30 every day. This is because of Daily Sabbath, a time where Gusties can take a pause in their day to reflect and worship. Every day students have different opportunities to nurture their spiritual wellbeing during these times. Chaplain Siri Erickson explained some of the many ways to be involved during this amazing time. At 10 a.m., the Chaplains’ Office hosts a variety of practices in the chapel: Interfaith Observances for special religious and cultural holidays, Morning Prayer, Open Vigils, Morning Praise, Holy Communion, and Musical Showcase. Fellowship of Christian Athletes leads motivational gatherings on Mondays in Lund at 10 a.m. as well.
In the Multifaith Center, Rosary Prayer meets on Mondays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and the space is open at other times for personal prayer and reflection. In the evenings, there are a variety of activities and organizations, including Sunday Evening Worship at 6:30 p.m. in Christ Chapel, Proclaim, Cru, and Prepare. Other active groups include the Multifaith Leadership Council, Interfaith Ambassadors, and the Newman Center. All of these activities and organizations are open for all students of Gustavus to join in and find their spiritual community.
“The best thing about worship on campus is that there is something for everyone”, Chaplain Maggie said, going on to explain how there are many different types, for the many different ways of feeling spiritual. If you like something quiet and contemplative go to Monday Prayer around the Cross. If you love contemporary praise music, Proclaim is on Tuesdays. If you like a more traditional feel with choral music and hymns, attend Wednesday Morning Praise. If an open and affirming community is important to you (with a combination of contemporary, hymns, and secular music with spiritual undertones)– Sunday Worship Community.
Also, some Tuesdays will be dedicated to a specific theme, topic, event, or experience. This past Tuesday, Sept. 21, space was created for people to reflect, pray, and remember indigenous women and girls who have gone missing. Candles were lit, and orange ribbons were tied around the stair railings in honor and remembrance of the missing sisters.
“This issue has been in the news and in our collective consciousness, especially as Black and Indigenous women have pointed out the inequities related to support and justice for women and girls who have gone missing in their respective communities.” Erickson said. In these coming weeks of the fall semester, if there are any issues, events, or important days of remembrance you would like the chaplains office to hold space for during a Tuesday Open Vigil, they are happy to work with any students.
The Chaplains at Gustavus are here to support the spiritual wellbeing of all students. According to Chaplain Siri Erickson, this includes religion-specific activities, as well as things like nurturing a connection to something larger than yourself, finding a sense of meaning and purpose, and cultivating awareness of the present moment.
“We love working with students from different backgrounds and identities as they develop their spiritual well being, interfaith leadership, and religious practices. This journey is unique for each person and yet there are values we can hold in common as we gather people together for community events and prayer,” Erickson said. All of these events help highlight the main three goals of the Chaplains, to connect, support, and develop a student’s spiritual or personal journey.

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