A Model of Religious Life
In 1999 the Earlham College faculty and Board of Directors approved a statement entitled “Religious Life at Earlham College.” The present document supplements and extends that statement by outlining a model of Religious Life. Students come to the Office of Religious Life for support in differing ways: some come seeking a deeper connection with their faith traditions, others seek to explore alternative spiritual paths; and still others need assistance discerning the inner foundations of their outward commitments. Earlham College seeks to provide assistance, support, and encouragement to these students in a variety of ways. Specifically, the Office of Religious Life assists students by providing guidance in contemplative inquiry, opportunities for dialogue, sponsoring celebratory communal events, and supporting a host of opportunities which enable students to put their most cherished beliefs into daily practice.
The Religious Society of Friends has long believed that an essential part of life is played out in the stillness and silence of solitude. Therefore, Earlham provides the time and space for periods of silence, self-reflection, and prayer and also offers some opportunities for individual pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. The Office of Religious Life cannot provide spiritual direction for each and every student but does attempt to find the appropriate resources (either on campus or within the wider community) which best serve an individual student’s needs. By emphasizing the importance of prayerful discernment and guided self-reflection, Earlham hopes that students will be more fully prepared for the personal, academic, and vocational decisions they will encounter on the road to a life of simplicity, integrity, and truth-seeking.
The statement on Religious life at EC emphasizes the importance of establishing a community in which its members “become good students of one another’s cultures and practices.” Campus ministry can, and should, play a vital role in ensuring that this objective is reached by facilitating ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, bringing speakers from diverse traditions to campus, and providing opportunities for faculty and students to work collaboratively or share their most meaningful experiences with one another. Such dialogues have the potential to foster respect and deepen understanding across differences, as well as to clarify or transform one’s own beliefs, values, and practices. In addition, such dialogues assist students in developing a working understanding of the natural alliance between faith and reason. As one way of fostering dialogue between students on matters of ultimate concern, the Office of Religious Life actively encourages, supports, and promotes Earlham’s student religious organizations. These organizations provide an essential mediating link between the College and the individual student. Developing the strength and vitality of student religious organizations is of primary importance in ensuring that a diverse community of dialogue is achieved.
For many students, the spiritual life is neither a solitary nor a purely intellectual exercise but is naturally made manifest in shared public worship, celebration, and/or ritual. Earlham’s Office of Religious Life is devoted to, whenever possible, providing the space, opportunities, and resources for times to celebrate or commemorate the joys and sorrows of a life of faith. Observation of religious holidays and participation in communal gatherings, celebrations, and other outward expressions of one’s deepest commitments are encouraged, supported, and actively promoted by the Office of Religious Life.
A life of faith finds its natural fruition in activity and practice. Earlham is a place where students encounter many opportunities to interweave the life of the spirit and action. It is hoped that students will discover that their engagement of the world constitutes a mutually transformative encounter in which actions serve to develop and deepen one’s own integrity and character as well as further the cause for social justice. Activities such as service learning projects, volunteer programs, faith-based internships, and off-campus study all allow students to test and forge their beliefs and commitments in real world settings while working toward the common good. The Office of Religious Life ensures that interested students are aware of the many opportunities available, assists students in finding those activities for which they are most well-suited, and provides opportunities for theological reflection on these experiences.
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 “A Model of Religious Life” policy, Earlham offers “Religious Life at Earlham College” to articulate our ideals and the means by which we seek to live those ideals.