Better Together Coffee House: How Campus Can Come Together

February 21, 2017

By Nayah James

“Picking up the pieces and understanding the unchangeable” was the theme of the social and spiritual gathering held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 13 in the University Ministry Center (UMC).

UMC’s goal for this event was to provide an open dialogue and safe place for people of all faiths as well as non-faiths to gather and discuss how to care for others and better build solidarity for communities on campus that feel targeted in an interfaith way.

Two interfaith student interns, Armani Brockman and Viviana Garcia as well as UMC’s Coordinator of Liturgy and Music Ministry, Amy Omi have crafted this event, with this being the third event. According to Omi, the first “Better Together Coffee House” event discussed personal faith journey, the second functioned as an open dialogue in response to the “We Stand with Our Black Students” protest held on campus back in October.

A small and intimate circle of about 12 students including Brockman and Garcia participated in forming groups, discussing each other’s feelings, emotions, questions and fears. Brockman asked questions to start conversation then Garcia helped facilitate everyone.  

In the small groups, students talked about their faith, what their faith means to them and how to use their faith to help others. Collectively, the group engaged in open dialogue about how they can come together on campus.

Senior Rachael Stewart felt that we as a community need to stop “putting blame on others and take the time to understand why people chose who they elected,” speaking of the recent election. Stewart raised another good point about coming from a place of privilege, “Coming from a place of privilege, it is important to be able to see outside of that bubble.”

Garcia voiced her concern about helping and being there for others.

“Policies are affecting certain people and it is important to know how to help those people, but we have to take the risk of stepping out of our own fears,” Garcia said.

Another student, Areli Aragon stated that although “not being affected directly, just knowing that others are being affected and not being inconsiderate of other people’s feelings” is another way we can support people who feel targeted.

“Making sure everyone’s opinions and feelings are validated” Stewart said, addressing the question of how campus can come together.

After engaging in small groups and big group communication, the students were asked what they would like to see done or changed on campus.

“I would like to see more prayer and sharing of hope, religion, kindness and love because we live in a selfish world, but we should be focusing on loving and caring for one another and spreading kindness” Stewart said.

Other than her, other students expressed what they would like to see on campus. They would like for campus to be more interactive for students. They would like to see campus practicing unconditional love for everyone, seeing different kinds of prayer and more mixing of faiths and non-faith practices among our community.

Although this event’s turnout was valuable, Omi, Brockman and Garcia stated that they’ve had larger in the past due to this event being held on Thursday nights instead of Mondays.

Omi would have liked to see more students come to engage in such dialogue. Garcia stated: “I believe our presence and the work we do on campus is important and it’s important to get what we do out there. My wish is for more students on campus to become more aware of what the Interfaith Cooperation Committee is.”

The Interfaith Cooperation Committee (ICC) will be hosting another event titled “Step In, Step Out” from 2:30 to 3:20 p.m. on Feb. 28 as another interactive platform for students on campus.