November 18, 2002 — In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, University of Utah students, faculty, staff and campus organizations are invited to participate in “Giving Thanks: An Interfaith Celebration,” on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m., at the U’s Fort Douglas Post Chapel. (Renovation of the historic structure, established as a peaceful campus spot for reflection and worship, was completed earlier this year.)
During the hour-long service, students and student groups of different faiths, religions or spiritual orientations will share their respective traditions and rituals for expressing gratitude-through verse, music, prayer and storytelling.
The purpose of the gathering, sponsored by the Interfaith Advisory Council and the Student Interfaith Council, is to foster mutual goodwill and understanding among University students, faculty and staff and among student groups. The event is free and open to the general public as well.
“The development of ethics and moral character, and interfaith cooperation on campus, are among President Bernie Machen’s priority issues,” notes Laura Snow, special assistant to President Machen. “This celebration is in keeping with the University’s goal to develop well-rounded students. Part of achieving a balance comes through self-exploration and the development of one’s individual spirituality. By learning about other faiths and sharing ideas, students can strengthen their own beliefs and resolve through questioning, comparison and dialogue. We thought a celebration of this kind would be timely as it is being held the week before Thanksgiving. And now, especially after September 11, we are all more aware of the things for which we are grateful.”
The new U of U Student Interfaith Council, comprised of representatives from the Catholic, Islamic, Baha’i, Hindu, Jewish, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Protestant faiths, will also be introduced that evening as well. A combined interfaith choir will close the celebration by singing “Seasons of Love,” by Jonathan Larson.
“As far as I know, this is the U’s first Student Interfaith Council,” says Devan Hite, who volunteered to organize the council and plan the celebration event. “As a council we hope to sponsor multi-faith community service projects as well as dialogue on a variety of topics each semester. Everyone is embracing the idea. It’s very exciting.
“The Student Interfaith Council is not asking people to forsake their beliefs,” Hite, a psychology major, says. “Instead, the goal of the ‘Giving Thanks’ celebration and the council is to create opportunities for participants to gain a greater understanding of the history, traditions and motivations of different faith groups in order to promote a greater sense of social peace.”