Sound Off, a program developed by Julie Lehman (Director of Church Relations) and Chaplain Steve Runholt, has been the campus’ intentional point of interfaith dialog on campus. The idea was to discuss politics, social issues, theology and philosophy in the context of diversity of faith perspective. Respect and an open mind and ears are the expectation of all who come, of course. The hope was to learn from others who share concern from these issues in a diverse context. The other hope was to show that people of differing faiths can peacefully dialog, and the outcome is mutually beneficial, educational and inspiring.
All are welcome to stop in and join the discussion (or just listen) any Thursday at lunch in Mierke. At times there are guests there to share their faith community’s tradition and answer student questions (advertised through the events calendar and the billboard in Glad, other times the discussion topic will be posted ahead of time, and sometimes a topic is just put on the table by someone interested in hearing other people’s ideas on the issue.
The first year of this conversation table, students only gathered at a corner table in Gladfelter to have such dialog and draw in others interested in joining. Last year, in response to students seeking more diversity of perspective, guests were invited from off campus. Faith community leaders of all traditions were asked to join students over lunch, briefly summarize their faith tradition’s beliefs, and speak a little about how they ended up leading a faith community.
Unexpectedly, over this second year, the school was able to reach out and make friends with spiritual leaders from all over Asheville. We learned the nuances between beliefs of mainline denominations as well as hearing what Jews, Unitarians, Quakers, Baha’i(s), independents, Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Catholics, United Congregationalists, Buddhists, Rastafarians and evangelists believe. The conversation has been even further broadened when international students join the table and discuss the differences in beliefs and practices of familiar faiths in other countries. We even had a Campus Crusade for Christ representative drop in one day after finding out about us on the WWC website! I don’t think he left with what he came for, but we sure learned a lot.
Over the life of this program, participants have experienced the profoundly powerful impact of constructive interfaith dialog when such a thing is nearly nonexistent beyond this campus and around the world. It’s just another thing that comes naturally here at WWC that would solve the world’s problems if they’d just try it.
This week at Sound Off:
WWC’s financial consultant and attorney, Scott Trease, will be visiting. He would like to bring to the table some issues that involve a conversation between philosophy and faith.
Next week, Rev. Byron Ballard, Wiccan High Priest (and Malaprops employee) will join us to discuss her beliefs and spiritual journey.
Please consider stopping in and listening some Thursday lunchtime. You may not be able to resist sounding off!
For information, call Julie Lehman (ext. 2038) or Steve Runholt (ext. 2095).