Confucian Commons RSO Celebrates Growth, Looks Toward Future

Members of the Confucianist RSO hope their organization will continue to flourish in the coming quarters.

By G. Cyrus Pacht

As the relatively new student-run Confucian Commons celebrates its second season Friday at 4 p.m. in the Spiritual Life Office, its members would like to see its position as an RSO solidified.  

“Very quickly after launching last spring, we went through the process of becoming an RSO,” founder Angela Parkinson said. She is a third-year student at the Divinity School pursuing a Master’s in Confucianism. 

“My goal is to keep going—I’m graduating this year—so hopefully someone will take over at this point who will stick around.” 

As someone with a background in political theory, comparative literature, and western classics, Parkinson’s interest in religion drew her to Confucianism. “Confucianism is an originally Chinese spirituality, the central concern of which is human flourishing in a social context,” she said. “Familial and governmental concerns are important in the tradition. I would say, how that’s understood and lived out in young people’s lives today, that’s very different. And the difference is sort of what makes the group. Because we can bring all those differences into the group and talk about it.” 

Starting last spring, Confucian Commons has gathered regularly to read and discuss works including the Analects of Confucius, with theme-based readings on alternating weeks, like timeliness and the importance of morality in a changing social context.. 

“There’s a really broad range of people who show up,” Parkinson said. “Everything from a Ph.D. student who’s studying Confucianism academically and who doesn’t practice personally, to multiple nth generation Asian Americans who have a tie to Confucianism as sort of something that’s in the background of their family, to first-generation immigrants, to international students who have been in the U.S. for two months and say, ‘This isn’t something I’d expect to find here.’” 

The members of Confucian Commons are excited to welcome new members as Confucianism gains recognition as a legitimate spiritual practice on campus. 

“This is the first year that we have had Confucianism as a choice when you come into the College,” Parkinson said. “You know you fill a questionnaire that asks what your religious/spiritual practice is? This year is the first time that students matriculating have the choice of putting Confucianism.” 

“So this launch party is to bring together old members and then also new people who checked the Confucianism box when they started school,” Parkinson said. “And we’ll go from there for the rest of the year.”