SJSpirit Offers Secular Religious Opportunities

by Apr 10, 2013 1:58 pm Tags: , , , , , , ,

The SJSpirit club seeks to bring people of all religions together to educate one another about their faiths.

SJSpirit is a campus spiritual group that has been on campus for more than 130 years, according to former head of SJSpirit and chaplain Roger Wharton.

Current chaplain Michael Ridgeway said the club is very low profile and the student group is very small, because only three or four students show up to meetings.

Ridgeway, an ordained minister and deacon in the Episcopal church, said he became involved in SJSpirit as a student at UC Berkeley, and was given the opportunity to become chaplain by Roger Wharton.

"I was also initially involved in the healing prayer ministry," he said.

Ridgeway said the club is designed to fill a spiritual need among students who seek to learn about religion.

He said the club was originally founded as an Episcopalian organization originally known as Canterbury Episcopal, but turned into a more secular club over time.

“We are a Christian group (that seeks) interfaith and friendships among other religions,” he said.

Although a lot of the subject matter revolves around Jesus and other aspects of Christianity, Ridgeway said the club attracts different people of other religions.

“We've had an agnostic, a Buddhist and some are just seekers,” he said.

One of the more popular events sponsored by SJSpirit is the imposition of ashes every year on Ash Wednesday in the Spartan Memorial.

“It's probably our most attended event, by both students and faculty,” Ridgeway said.

Wharton also said the club has made presentations in some college campuses in the past such as San Francisco State.

In addition, SJSpirit also has a weekly prayer hearing held in the Spartan Memorial, every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway said the club wants to be available at all times for people to drop in and talk to anyone.

"My main goal as chaplain is to listen to the community at large to learn what kinds of spiritual services might be useful," he said.

Wharton said the club calls its members “spiritual explorers,” and they come together to learn and share.

“We're there as an educational community and (for) insight,” Ridgeway said. “We're not there to convert anyone.”

Wharton said the club tries to explore different beliefs through activities such as the labyrinth, an ancient act of walking meditation where the person walks on a mat set up as a walking maze in search of peace of mind.

Jennifer Morazes, the staff adviser for SJSpirit, said she conducts meetings in the Pacifica room of the Student Union every other Wednesday.

"There is a biweekly program called University of the Spirit, which are presentations on different topics," Morazes said. "I did ones on how some people use theology to support hateful views, (and another) based on a survey of college students, spirituality, and religion."

Some of the subjects that are covered center around who Jesus is from different points of view, and what prayer means to different religions, according to Morazes.

According to Ridgeway, some of the more popular themes at the meeting are social justice, violence and immigration reform.

“We want to find what people are passionate about,” he said. "(We want to) offer opportunities to do social justice work in the form of community service, but through a spiritual lens.

The meetings are normally not well-attended, according to Ridgeway.

“I don't know if it's a matter of presentation style or subject matter, but I definitely thank (Morazes) for leading those discussions,” he said.

Ridgeway said he plans to turn the lecture style of club meetings into more interactive activities to get more students interested.

"SJSpirit is, after all, a student organization and it needs to have students who are willing to become involved," he said.

Wharton said although he is the former chaplain, he intends to help the club in its future endeavors by “opening doors and windows to opportunity” to the possibilities for the club's growth on campus.

"I enjoy being a mentor to students and their spiritual development," said Morazes. "I also enjoy the opportunity for interfaith dialogue on campus, as this group is the only hub for that on campus."

Ridgeway said although they are a quiet ministry, they hope to provide service and variety to students on campus.

“I sense that we're changing lives for the better,” he said.



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