‘STRONGER IN THEIR OWN FAITH’: INTERFAITH OFFERINGS EXPAND ON CAMPUS

SILVIA OAKLAND, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

“You don’t have to be Lutheran, or even Christian, to appreciate the way a Wartburg education will help you discover meaning and purpose for your life.” Wartburg College is known for its affiliation with the Lutheran faith
as it is imbedded into the mission and identity statement of the college
which includes, “Wartburg College is a liberal arts college of the Lutheran Church (ELCA).”

Wartburg’s student body, staff and faculty include many different types of religion including various denominations of Christianity,
Islam and Buddhism.

“The purpose of Lutheran higher education is not to make more Lutherans or Christians,” Reverend Brian Beckstrom, Dean of Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry, said. “That may happen in the process, but the purpose of a Lutheran education is to provide the best possible education we can for students as they discover and claim their calling to things and send them out to be in service to meet the needs of the world.”

Campus Ministry encourages students to open up and listen to one another and continue to keep the current campus climate surrounding religion accepting and respectful.

“Students usually grow stronger in their own faith,” Beckstrom
said. “It makes people go back to their own faith and think about it more deeply. It helps them [students] humanize people from other traditions. It’s a lot harder to hate somebody when it’s a real person.”

Besides encouraging students to grow within their own faith, the spiritual life and ministry wants students to learn about the many traditions and religions of others.

Beckstrom said interfaith chapels are nearly monthly and provide faculty, staff and students with access to many religious backgrounds and be able to start conversations about religion.

“It’s something that we’re committed to,” Beckstrom said. “We hope that students come to hear their classmates, faculty and staff who have different perspectives share a little bit about their faith journey. We’re hoping to branch out from there and have more interfaith conversations as well.”

Hosting interfaith chapels is one of the many ways the spiritual life and ministry is making the chapel a more inclusive place.

“I actually realized that the faith in this community is not trying to influence people but have each individual respect their own faith,” Namleng Sina, second year economics major, is of the Buddhist faith and described her experience on campus said. “After that I tried to change myself by no longer seeing things from a closed perspective why don’t I open up and see things from another angle.”

Beckstrom is also working to provide students opportunities to attend services that correspond with personal religious backgrounds off campus. Also Campus Ministry are working with local congregations and mosques to make connections with more religious communities. On campus, there are opportunities and space for students of many faiths to worship in a sacred place on campus and promote more religious diversity.

“We do have a Muslim student association on campus now, that’s part of spiritual life and campus ministry,” Beckstrom said. “A second interfaith prayer room that’s open now in the chapel. I think we’re continuing to live and figure out what is calling us to be in this time and place.”

One of the non-denominational groups on campus is Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC), a college age worship group.

Pederson said her experience with the religious culture at Wartburg allowed her to explore and grow her faith and currently aligns herself with the non-denominational church BASIC.

“When I first came to campus it was something that I was looking to get involved in, but I didn’t really find the perfect fit for me,” Pedersen said. “I started talking with friends and we started going down to UNI [University of Northern Iowa] at BASIC down there and we really fell in love with it.”

For information about the services offered at Wartburg, go to wartburg.edu/campus-ministry/. Students can also contact Beckstrom at brian.beckstrom@wartburg.edu or Rebecca Baird, pastoral intern, at rebecca.baird@wartburg.edu

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