May 20, 2011

Spirit Week connects RSOs

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From a superstition-themed party to the Buddha’s 2,635th birthday, U of C’s Spirit Week celebrations have brought international guests and campus faith groups together.

The annual celebration of faith, the University’s second ever, kicked off last Friday with art, lectures, and meditation workshops.

“It’s a chance to invite a friend to something you already do in a more open setting,” Dean of Rockefeller Chapel and Director of Spiritual Life Rev. Elizabeth Davenport said, adding that approximately 20 percent of students on campus belong to a religious organization.

Monday, Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gyuto Vajrayana Center in San Jose, CA began creating a sand mandala–a sacred, circular sand painting–grain-by-grain.

Mandalas-—the objects of meditation and devotion in many Buddhist and Hindu traditions—are ceremoniously dissolved in water upon completion to stress the impermanence of existence. The Gyuto mandala was dissolved yesterday morning in a closing ceremony on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The sand painting was part of an installation being held in Rockefeller Chapel titled “Impermanence,” which also includes photography, assemblage art, and poetry. Students were also invited to create art that mimicked the techniques in the exhibit.

Davenport said that the idea of Spirit Week was to create “something visual that would speak to spirituality in a broad context.” Various student religious organizations sponsored prayer and meditation workshops occurred throughout the week, including those by Hindu Student Sangam, the Buddhist Student Association, the Muslim Student Association, and the Latter-Day Saint Student Association.

Christian Williams, a Divinity School student and member of the Spiritual Life Council, described the week as an “open door to the rest of the campus” to learn more about religious groups.

The installation’s opening on Monday coincided with the date recognized as the birthday of the Buddha, which visitors celebrated with a birthday cake.

Approximately 65 people also attended the first-ever Annual Multi-faith Celebration on Sunday, which featured presentations by 11 different student-led organizations showcasing the many faith traditions on campus.

The Secular Students Alliance opened the festivities last Friday with their Superstition Bash in Hutch Commons, while Grammy Award Winning musician Paul Jacobs performed an organ recital in Rockefeller Chapel on Sunday afternoon.

The Spiritual Life Office at Rockefeller Chapel and the Spiritual Life Council, a group of 12 students with ties to 37 religious networks, sponsor the annual event.