Jessie Goodson, Campus Carrier Features Editor
|Frost Chapel on Mountain Campus Bailey Albertson | CAMPUS CARRIER|
We may not be a “religious” college, but it’s no secret that Berry has strong religious ties. Lots of students participate in religious activities on campus, but how many? Recently, Assistant Chaplain Erin Moniz created a survey to gather data about students and their religious affiliations.
A large percentage of the 650 students who took the religion survey expressed they’d like to learn more about and experience other religions. Many of them were looking for something that was already there, the Interfaith Center.
“Our institution welcomes all religions,” said Assistant Professor of Religion and Interfaith Council member Jeffrey Lidke. “We make an effort to make opportunities available to students of all religions.”
With over 12 religious groups on Berry’s campus, it is easy for some to be overlooked. The Interfaith Center houses several: Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and more.
“I believe that one of the best kept secrets of Berry College is the Interfaith Center,” Moniz said. “The Interfaith Council does a fantastic job of continually providing educational opportunities that represent multiple faith perspectives.”
While the Chaplain’s Office focuses on the Christian faith, they also do their best to reach students with other beliefs. Through events and outreach programs, students have many opportunities for religious life on campus.
The goal of the survey was to reveal student perspective of and involvement in religious life on campus. This is everything from how students feel about religion on campus to what students are involved in and how they are expressing their beliefs.
Eighty percent of students who participated in the survey identify as some sort of Christian denomination, three percent as not Christian and 17 percent as Atheist or no religion.
“Our objective is not about how much religion is offered, but to make sure the quality and options of diverse resources are available to students,” Moniz said.
Of the survey responses, it was almost divided evenly between classes. There were a good variety of students who thought Berry was too religious and students who thought the opposite. Sixty-three percent of participants said that religious events seem to be happening as often as other events on campus. Even though the chaplain’s office hosts many of the events, it can still be hard to keep up with them all.
“Berry’s got a hundred different pockets and people can often be very private about their spiritual expressions,” Moniz said.
It was important to Martha Berry to have an integrated environment of religion and academics on campus. Students used to be required to attend daily services at Mount Berry Church, but now it is all completely voluntary.
“I love how open people can be about their religion on campus,” junior Cassie Mayberry said. “Even if you’re not a Christian, you’re not going to be judged for that.”
The Chaplain’s office stressed that all religions are welcome, regardless of whether there’s already an organization for it or not. Like-minded students that would be interested in starting an organization for their beliefs are encouraged to do so and will be fully supported.
“Come as you are, take what you need, and we will try to continue to adapt our resources to that,” Moniz said.