People unfamiliar with Southwestern University often assume that because it was chartered in 1840 as a Methodist institution, Methodism is the only expression of faith here. On the contrary, there are many religious and spiritual clubs offered on campus, and the University expressly supports a range of denominations and religious pluralism.

Navigating faith 

Finding a religion—or determining whether one fits you at all—can be difficult. That’s why the founder of the Catholic Student Association (CSA), Mariana Quetzeri ’21, made sure the club feels inviting to everyone. “We’re all interested in learning about other religions and other cultures,” Quetzeri shares.

For example, one individual who does not identify as Catholic still attends CSA meetings to explore. “There’s an atmosphere of learning,” Quetzeri observes. “We’re all trying to learn how to navigate our faith life with college life.”

Navigating faith is an activity better done with the support of a community. And religious organizations act “kind of like the catalyst towards other relationships on campus.”

Mike May ’20, president of the Federation of Christian Athletes (FCA), echoes her sentiment. He says that one of the most significant parts of FCA is “being there for each other through the various hard parts of college.”

A catalyst for relationships 

Navigating faith is an activity better done with the support of a community. And religious organizations act “kind of like the catalyst towards other relationships on campus,” May remarks.  “I know for me personally, some of my closest friendships have been developed through FCA.”

This attitude ties into the inspiration that recently created a new space on campus. The Multifaith Prayer Room, which celebrated its official opening on November 22, 2019, is an extension of the University’s growing effort to create “a space for community for people of all faiths or no faith,” says Julianne Snape, interim director of religious and spiritual life. “Faith traditions flourish in community,” she adds, and the Multifaith Prayer Room is a step to cultivate more connections on campus. 

However, that is not the only factor that led to the room’s creation.

Express openly 

“Our goal is to foster a genuine atmosphere where people can be themselves,” Carolyn Cravey ’22, president of Canterbury Student Group, states. She describes Canterbury meetings as  “open and inclusive [time] … to discuss life and faith.”

Multifaith Prayer Room Multifaith Prayer Room

This openness for religious expression is the same motive for the creation of the Multifaith Prayer Room. Formerly a bridal suite near the Lois Perkins Chapel, the Multifaith Prayer Room was transformed into neutral space for spiritual observance and reflection. 

As Dianna Star ’21, an intern for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, states, the purpose of the Multifaith Prayer Room is to “expand the visibility for religious diversity on campus” and to amplify “students’ voices.”

The room is already in use. It features a cabinet filled with prayer rugs and mats for practicing Isla, as well as bookshelves lined with copies of various holy books, including the Quran and Tanakh.

What binds us?

What best characterizes religious and spiritual life at Southwestern is, Quetzeri says, the “desire to bring Southwestern students together.” Whether it’s joining people with a shared religion or starting dialogue between individuals of differing faiths, the core of student religious and spiritual life on campus is building community.