Princeton’s Office of Religious Life supports student community of many faiths


[Music] REV. ALISON BODEN: Someone once said,
“If you know one religion “you don’t know any.” All the world is at
Princeton and that means we have all the world’s
religious communities at Princeton, too. The Office of Religious
Life is the spiritual center of Princeton University. The motto that we have is,
that we are a place for all. And we really take that seriously and we work on it really hard. JILL DOLAN: One of the things
I’m most proud about with the Office of Religious
Life here at Princeton is how widely it serves students from a variety of different
religious backgrounds. RABBI JULIE ROTH: They’re one of the first
to include Muslim and Hindu chaplains. They’re one of the only ones that focus on not only religious life
but also secular perspectives on meaning making and transcendence. [Inspiring music] VINEET CHANDER: We really aim for the
program here to be in so many ways a home away from home for our students. And in some cases that’s quite literal. We have students whose
families are oceans away. And so one of the things we
try to do is to offer a space that they can reconnect with
those aspects of who they are and what their traditions,
and what their family and their culture means to them. RUJA BENJAMIN: The Office of Religious
Life offers a vital counterpart to all of the academic
stuff that we’re doing. VINEET CHANDER: Being on a campus
like Princeton where time is at such a premium, where there’s such an energy
of competition, of achievement, I’m always just struck
by how hungry students are for spaces in which
they can be just be real and lean into those questions
of meaning and of purpose. [Peaceful music] IMAM SOHAIB SULTAN: Two things which
allow students to be engaged in a very special way —
one is that we believe in the culture of conversation. REV. THERESA THAMES: This is a great
space for interfaith dialogue between students and faculty and staff. And so the Office of Religious Life allows opportunities for interfaith, intergenerational conversations. IMAM SOHAIB SULTAN: We’re asking people
to not just attend and listen but to be in conversation
with both the presenters and themselves. REV. ALISON BODEN: They find
themselves just having organic conversations with one another. The kind of conversation that you think you’ve come to university to have but then find out actually
you kind of have to work on it and be intentional about it. IMAM SOHAIB SULTAN: The
second part of the culture is hospitality. We really believe in the
ministry of hospitality. Just about any hour of
the day you can come and find some food here. REV. ALISON BODEN: There’s a lot of
spiritual ritual that goes around eating and then the
building of fellowship. RABBI JULIE ROTH: It’s amazing
to see students gathered and enjoying a community barbecue or visiting each other’s celebrations whether students are coming
to us for Shabbat dinner. We might go to a Diwali
celebration or to an Iftar with the Muslim community. MATTHEW WEINER: Our job at the Office of
Religious Life is to be sensitive to the religious diversity that’s here. To create space for particular
religious traditions as well as different religious traditions that counter each other. TRACY SMITH: The opportunity to
engage productively with people whose values and beliefs are different from your own, I think that’s pivotal to what happens at any institution. [Inspiring music] REV. ALISON BODEN: Everything about this place creates opportunities for us to engage with one another. RABBI JULIE ROTH: And I think Murray-Dodge
is really a space where students feel like they can walk in, be
themselves and feel at home. EMMA COLEY: When you walk in
it’s kind of, ahhh. JILL DOLAN: There’s something
about Murray-Dodge. There’s something about the chapel that pools all those faith communities together into one community. PENNA ROSE: The chapel itself
is incredibly special, it’s very unusual for a college campus to have a chapel that looks like this and feels like this. VINEET CHANDER: This amazing sacred
space at Princeton University has quite literally opened its door to people of all faiths. Being able to
have all those spaces has been pretty important to feeling heard and feeling understood in
the hecticness of the world and of campus life. REV. DR. THERESA THAMES: You are not
just a brain that’s thinking in academics. Your whole self can show up to your Princeton experience. REV. ALISON BODEN: We bring in speakers. The Dalai Lama has come
to campus through us. President Jimmy Carter is another person. We take students abroad on
trips all over the world to see the role of
religion in those countries and particularly the role of religion in social change. MATTHEW WEINER: We also run
an internship program that brings students
to the United Nations. We work with refugees and
refugee resettlement agencies from around the country. And so, from our perspective,
religion is what you’d imagine religion to be. And it’s also everything else and the way that religion encounters it. JILL DOLAN: Our religious leaders
on campus are people who are compassionate, who care
and who really want to make not just the Office of Religious Life and its constituent faith communities but, the whole campus a place
where we can come together across those differences, to know one another, to love one another and to work with one another
to make the world better. PRESTON EVERS: I would really
encourage students to reach out to the chaplains. They’re here to talk with students. And I don’t doubt that a friendship will emerge from that. REV. DR. THERESA THAMES: My greatest
joy is to interact with students on this campus. They bring life and vitality. They also challenge me
with their questions. And so it helps me be a better pastor, a better theologian. I feel that we journey together here, that I’m not just leading them but, we’re leading each other. [Clapping] PRESTON EVERS: I don’t consider myself to
be a member of a particular religious tradition but, I
would want incoming students to know that this office is very inclusive in the religious sense of people coming from all faith backgrounds,
no faith background. REV. DR. THERESA THAMES: And so if you’re
looking to come to Princeton University, know that you can bring your entire story, your authentic self, into this space and your religious identity
or your spiritual identity, in every way. BRIAN HERRERA: As you come into a
space of discovering who you are as a young adult in this
world, where is there a place at Princeton that you
can tune into others who are asking some of the same questions, and I would say start at
the Office of Religious Life and see what routes it opens for you. SIRAD HASSAN: You’re going to
come out of it thinking that this is the best part
of your Princeton experience as much as I thought
and think of it today. REV. ALISON BODEN: My hope for ORL
is to help people articulate for themselves what they believe and how they want that to impact
how they live in the world. [Peaceful music]

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