Statement on Religious Life at Earlham College
Earlham is a crossroads college. We are a meeting place of different cultures, different academic disciplines, and differing perspectives. We are also a meeting place for differing religious beliefs and practices. Religious life at Earlham is constituted by four overlapping communities.
A Quaker Community
Earlham is a Quaker college rooted in principles derived from the teachings of the Religious Society of Friends; we try to respect every individual, to be truthful and act with integrity, to pursue peace and justice, to seek consensus in making decisions, to live simply. For Quakers, these principles are religiously based in Friends’ faith and practice and grounded in worship. For all people at Earlham, Quaker and other-than-Quaker, believer and non-believer, these principles are not merely exhortations. They are the standards by which we try to live. To assure that there is always a living Quaker presence at Earlham, we actively recruit Quaker faculty, staff and students as an important part of our religiously diverse campus.
A Multi-Faith Community
Earlham College is made up of people of various faiths and religious practices and people of no religious faith. We recognize that there should be times for Catholics to be together with Catholics, Muslims with Muslims, Quakers with Quakers, Jews with Jews, Baha’is with Baha’is, and so on. We are committed therefore, to making it as easy as possible for students, faculty and staff to celebrate their own holy days, hold their own retreats and say their own prayers together. Whenever possible we provide special places for these observances—for example, Beit Kehillah, Stout Meetinghouse and Interfaith House. We believe there must be occasions and places where each religious group feels itself to be the norm, where most of the participants are literate in the practices in a unique faith tradition. We do not impose our particular religious practices on others; at the same time, we welcome friends and visitors at all our activities. We facilitate participation of Earlham students in religious communities beyond the campus, and welcome our neighbors to religious practices and celebrations on campus.
A Rational Community
As a college of liberal arts and sciences, Earlham expects its students and faculty to develop their intellects to the greatest extent possible. Through our curriculum and through many activities outside the classroom, we seek to strengthen the disciplines of reason and the interconnections among them. We are a college committed to the view that the intellect can most fruitfully develop in an environment where there are also plentiful opportunities for spiritual seeking and religious life. We hope the possibility of spiritual wonderment, of awe, is never absent from our class-rooms, our laboratories, our libraries. We do not ask members of the community to relate intellect and spirit in any particular way, but we do intend to create many opportunities for making the connection. We are a crossroads of the intellect and the spirit.
A Community of Dialogue
Our goal is to become good guests and good hosts within our various religious traditions. We want to become good students of one another’s cultures and practices. Over the course of a year we hope our concerts, lectures, and other public events and celebrations represent the full religious pluralism of the Earlham College community. While we recognize the need for each group to spend time apart from others, we also recognize the need to get to know each other better, to enrich our lives by learning from people whose religious practices differ from ours and people who do not identify themselves with an historical religious community. Just as we discourage unwelcome proselytizing, we discourage continuous isolation within religious enclaves. Dialogue can sometimes be painful; the legacies of intolerance run through all our religious histories. Respectful dialogue, nevertheless, is the first step in modeling a peaceful world, in making new friends, in deepening our spiritual lives.
– Final version as approved by the Earlham Board of Trustees, June 1999
At Earlham, we have given a great deal of thought to our approach to religious life, to both the vision that guides us and the model of practices we pursue to enact that vision. In addition to the “Religious Life at Earlham College” policy, Earlham offers “A Model of Religious Life” to articulate our ideals and the means by which we seek to live those ideals.