Spiritual life can mean so many things to so many different people and that is what makes it difficult on a college campus. How can all the needs be met, let alone by one person? Yet, it appears that Cornell has been able to meet the needs of all the different branches sprouting amongst the students. The source of this success is Reverend Catherine Quehl-Engel, the chaplain on campus.
There are various different offshoots of spiritual life, including Spiritus and Interfaith. Spiritus offers a more traditional Christian teaching to students through a bible study and chapel offered each block, while the goal of interfaith is to find common themes.
“We have been very intentional about creating events that bring groups together that cross religious boundaries,” said Chris Machold (16), office manager for Quehl-Engel and two-year member of spiritual life leadership.
The events that are offered under the umbrella of Spiritual Life are not only for the students. All of the events are advertised and open to the entire community. Many community members are regulars at the weekly mediation on Friday in Allee Chapel.
“Father Cathy has encouraged us to look beyond the campus community. For instance there are upcoming festivals at the Cedar Rapids temple and even if were not Hindu the point is to find points of intersection,” said Machold.
Similar to all other areas of life, groups like to choose a theme. Within spiritual life, it is no different. The emphasis for this year is compassion, love and kindness, and through a series of speakers, Spiritual Life and Quehl-Engel hope to open discussion around the campus of what it means to be a compassionate individual, regardless of one’s background.
“There has been a very big emphasis on the social justice initiative. Through this initiative we have brought in different speakers, such as the Imam and a Rabbi to discuss compassion,” said Machold. Nov. 11, at 3:30 p.m. in Allee Chapel a Zen priest will be visiting to speak on the same theme, continuing the series.
Religion and spirituality seem to be one of those areas that can easily make people feel uncomfortable or out of place. However, something about the way Quehl-Engel runs things creates an entirely different environment. An environment where people of all different cultural and spiritual backgrounds are able to gather in one room and feel at peace.
Machold said, “What we do and what Father Cathy does is not prescriptive. At bible study there is no prophesizing element or any sense that you need to believe what the text says.”
In contrast to creating distinctions between different people, those involved in spiritual life here at Cornell search for bridges that unite everyone.
“There are certain things that all religions have in common. We meet in the space to offer support to one another and offer an inclusive community where anyone can discuss whatever they wish to. It is a place where all of us together can talk about the mysterious of life. It’s a place where we can begin to discern the nature of the universe,” said Machold.
Abby Bridgett (Staff Writer)