Last night a “Religious Tale-a-bration” was held in the Welles-Brown room in Rush Rhees Library. The purpose of the program was, as Take Five Scholar and Interfaith Intern at the Interfaith Chapel Heather Hall said, “to celebrate the diverse, educational and informative qualities of stories in these religious traditions.”
“Education can take many forms and we thought this would be a fun yet effective way to explain some of the core values, beliefs, people and events of the faith,” she said.
A crowd of about 40 people showed up to listen to the stories. Most of the religious groups on campus were represented and the content and focus of each story varied greatly. Buddhist representative and sophomore Gwen Olton told a fable about two ducks and a turtle meant to convey a sense of staying in your moment.
The story of St. Christopher and his search for someone to worship represented the Catholic tradition. A crowd-pleasing love story was told by a student from India. An incredible story about one girl’s ancestors trek across the Rockies to Salt Lake City in the 1850s and the adversity they overcame was told by a representative of the Mormon religion and a passage from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia was read by a Protestant student.
“We hope people will learn something from these stories, including the less doctrinal and historical stuff and more of the fantastical and cultural stuff,” Hall said.
The event was sponsored by the Religious Roundtable, a group overseen by Jody Asbury, run by Hall, and consisting of about 20 students who represent a dozen religious traditions.
“We currently have representatives for the Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, Mormon, Baha’i, Protestant, Buddhist and Siddha Yoga faiths,” Hall said.
Hall encourages students from any faith not yet represented to get involved. The Roundtable is currently hoping to add Pentecostal representation and any other religious traditions that are practiced by UR students including Pagan/Wiccan and Christian Scientist.
“The Religious Roundtable has been meeting for most of the year each Sunday night to teach each other about their religious traditions and to promote greater understanding across faith traditions,” said Jody Asbury, Director of University Religious Affairs. Other events the Roundtable has participated in include a trip to a mosque earlier this year and a Q&A session about religious diversity that they held last fall in Tiernan.
Also coming up is the yearly Religious Diversity Celebration, which “makes use of dance, song, prayer and testimonials from different traditions in the Chapel,” Asbury said. “This year it will be in March and be a program centered on women’s religious roles in recognition of Women’s History Month.”
“The tales that were told were selected by the practitioners of each tradition, and are chosen because they have meaning and inspiration for the individual,” Hall said.
“All the religious practitioners on the Roundtable realize that it is difficult to represent the diversity present within their faiths. Their most valuable contribution is the indisputable content of their own experience and beliefs within their tradition.”
Asbury said she is impressed with the Roundtable’s willingness to share. “The efforts of these students to share and learn about each other and offer this to the rest of the community is really quite remarkable,” she said.
“I know students who come will go away touched and with deeper understanding and respect.”
Mincieli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.