Making challah bread, from left Reina Weinstock '17, Emily Granoff '18, Jason Fortunato '17 and Xan Mullings '20.

In an effort to create learning opportunities about diverse religious traditions, the Hamilton College Chaplaincy recently sponsored “Spirituality 101 Week.” It featured a series of discussions, interactive workshops and informational sessions promoting religious literacy.

Spirituality 101 began in 2011 as an annual way for students on campus to become more informed on the values and customs of differing religions. Some of this year’s events included “Meditation as a Spiritual Quest” led by the Meditation Club, an interfaith roundtable discussion on “Religion & Anthropology: The Origins and Persistence of Ritual” led by the All Beliefs Union, and an “Introduction to Making Challah Bread” led by Challah for Hunger.

Jeffrey McArn, who has been the Hamilton College Chaplain for over 20 years, recognizes the importance of Spirituality 101 as a way to “create learning opportunities in the area of religious tradition and spiritual practices for a campus which is on the whole not only tone-deaf about -- but possibly deeply suspicious of -- religion.”

In addition, current students weren’t the only ones spreading their knowledge on various spiritual practices. Matt Russell ’11, a former monk of the Dai Bosatsu Zendo monastery in the Catskill Mountains, instructed a Zen sitting meditation workshop while Eve Stevens ’09, an ordained minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Utica, offered a workshop on sharing personal stories using poetry.

With such a wide range of events, Spirituality 101 acted as an opportunity for campus members to learn more about the actual differences between various religions and spiritual practices that are often not recognized or understood.

“It is our hope that someone who has never experienced Jumu'ah prayers in the Muslim tradition might find some insight into the world of Islam, or a member of our community who might not know what a Shabbat observance is about in Judaism,” commented McArn. “Or for Jews and Muslims on campus, what it means to have a Jumu'ah Shabbat where Jewish and Muslim communities share thoughts about prayer together.”

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