The Task Force on the Interfaith Chapel released two documents on Monday: “Principles to Guide the Re-Organization of the Interfaith Chapel” – which serves as recommendations to Interim Dean of the College Richard Feldman – and “Communal Expectations for Religious Life.” They are the culmination of seven meetings that the Task Force held this past semester to seek to improve the quality of religious life for UR students.
Chaired by Professor of Religion Curt Cadorette and Dean of Students Jody Asbury, the Task Force consisted of 17 members. In addition to the two co-chairs, three professors, the Director of the International Services Office, four religious community leaders and seven students from various religious communities sat in on the committee. Furthermore, Dean Feldman sat in on a few meetings, listening to the discussions. The full listing is available on the Dean of Students Web site.
According to Dean Asbury and Hillel President, Task Force member and junior Jon Elkin, the first document – which constitutes the recommendations sent to Dean Feldman – outlined the Interfaith Chapel’s responsibility to maintain religious life on campus. For example, the document established guidelines regarding the relationships between religious groups and recommendations as to how to structure them.
The second document adapted the University’s “Statement of Communal Principles” – a well-established document that has delineated the expectations of UR students, faculty and staff – to religious life, especially as it relates to the conduct of religious community chaplains.
“Personally, I am very pleased with the outcome of the committee,” Elkin said. “I think that if you ask any one of us we would tell you that there are certainly unsolved issues, but what we were able to accomplish established a clear structure within which religious communities on campus can operate and an outline for how the Interfaith Chapel will proceed to improve itself and religious life on campus. The committee was incredibly attentive to the diversity of religious groups on campus and I think that we reinforced, through our documents and discussions, the Chapel’s and the University’s commitment to religious diversity and freedom.”
This commitment to diversity was evident through the Task Force’s agenda, posted on the Dean of Students’ Web site. During its Monday, Oct. 9 meeting, the Task Force discussed student-led religious communities to better understand the needs of groups that may not be represented by chaplains, inviting groups that were not already on the Task Force. Since the covenant statement of the UR Interfaith Chapel only had Jewish, Protestant and Catholic communities as signatories, members of the Task Force stressed that the Interfaith Chapel needs to be structured to receive emerging religious traditions at UR.
“We want to do better by these groups and provide more support to let all students know they are welcome,” Asbury said.
An important part of addressing the needs of new groups is the governance of the Interfaith Chapel, a key component of the Task Force’s recommendations. Dean Asbury remarked that the position of Interfaith Chapel director is important to coordinate the needs of all religious communities.
“The Interfaith Chapel organization needs to be designed to support the multiplicity of faith traditions so everyone has a voice, especially those who don’t have chaplains,” Asbury said.
If the Task Force reconvenes next semester, she explained, it would most likely be to help with the search for a new director.
Director of the Catholic Newman Community Father Brian Cool commented on the Task Force.
“The process was very challenging, and one I was quite suspicious of given the limited amount of time and the broad array of issues that needed to be addressed,” Cool said. “However, what we were able to put together and the course we have been able to steer for the future has been incredible and a positive example of what good collaboration can achieve.”
Dean Asbury summarized the state of religion on campus and what the Task Force is doing to address it.
“The Task Force will be making some recommendations to the deans to strengthen our ability to welcome the world’s religions on campus,” she said. “We reviewed our own history and the contributions of the long-standing partners at the Chapel who have helped us build a strong program from its beginnings, but we also benchmarked programs from across the country to understand how we might better welcome and support the broad array of faith traditions that students bring to campus.”Scott is a member of the class of 2008.