Religion is both a public and a private practice. In today’s society, places of worship can be found in restaurants, malls, campus housing and classrooms.
On campus, MU is home to more than 30 diverse religious organizations. Many of these, including Christian Campus House, provide housing for students on campus. In addition, the MU Department of Religious Studies has close to 100 courses in their course catalog.
“I was shocked at all the opportunities MU had to explore religion when I arrived on campus,” freshman hospitality management major and MU Student Mobilization member, Cecelia Bolin said.
Through Student Mobilization, Bolin has embraced her faith at weekly meetings and attended other religious events, such as the annual Student Mobilization Conference in Oklahoma City, Okla., last January. There were more than 2,000 college students and 16 universities represented at the conference. The mission of Student Mobilization is to inspire laborers for Christ from college campuses across the world to be spiritual leaders for future generations.
“I really enjoyed going to the conference and witnessing the impact that religion has on other college campuses,” Bolin said.
Junior hospitality management major Kristen George has also found a home, literally, in an MU religious organization. George moved into the Christian Campus House her freshman year and currently works as CCH’s activities coordinator intern.
“Living at CCH is like living with your family,” George said.
The motto of CCH is: “On campus, on purpose.” They strive to be aware of the people around them and share the love they have found for God with others.
CCH currently houses 98 college students among their four locations at 608, 700, and 704 S. College Ave. and at their annex at 611 Lee St.
Students who wish to live at CCH must go through an application process. However, students do not have to live at CCH to be involved in the organization. CCH hosts worship services every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in Waters Hall and encourages all students to get involved.
Organizations such as CCH and Student Mobilization provide many social religious opportunities, but the MU Department of Religious Studies provides many academic religious opportunities as well. The MU Department of Religious Studies takes a more objective approach to religion. Their courses and faculty explain religion as a cultural phenomenon over time, instead of what to believe.
“We do not try to validate or invalidate students’ personal religious beliefs,” said Carrie Duncan, assistant professor of ancient Mediterranean religions.. “Many students are taken aback by our approach.”
This is Duncan’s second year teaching at MU and her courses encompass Hebrew, the Bible and Judaism. Duncan said she had not always intended to work in religious studies. She originally wanted to pursue archeology as a profession, but one of her undergraduate professors told her that her job opportunities in archaeology would be limited. Duncan then decided to pursue religious studies.
Duncan believes that a degree in religious studies is a unique way for students to stand out in a sea of professionally oriented degrees. Many religious studies degrees are double majors, giving students a well-rounded education.
“By getting a degree in religious studies, you are showing that you have a concern and understanding for the world and how people live in it,” Duncan said.
By reaching out to honors students, the department has been able to reach students with a wide variety of majors, and help them recognize the importance and depth of religious studies. Duncan said that the department is attempting to grow their programs and actively encourage students to get involved.
Whether it is academic, social or cultural, there are many opportunities to embrace and observe religion. The breadth of opportunities shows the diversity of the U.S., and more specifically, the diversity of MU’s campus. MU is home to Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Interfaith, Islamic, Jewish and Pagan places of worship. With numerous places of worship, organizations and classes, not only can existing practices be reinforced, but new practices can also be discovered.
For more information on the MU Department of Religious Studies courses, faculty and activities, visit religiousstudies.missouri.edu.