Interfaith cooperation: what does that mean exactly? In the purest sense, it means religious pluralism. But more aptly, it means a deep, underlying respect and understanding of those who may not share the same thoughts or beliefs that you hold.
At Endicott College, we are striving every day not only to build an accepting community, but to create bridges across departments and between students that will foster full acceptance of individuals for their uniqueness. We believe that this effort will let everyone shine, which is why our community was created.
As such, from February 18–February 22, 2020, Endicott will be hosting a variety of events focused on the whole person and community integration. This series, which is in its second year on our campus and is spearheaded by the Office of Spiritual Life, is called Better Together Days.
On February 18, there will be a Better Together Interfaith Service in the Interfaith Chapel at 5 p.m. led by our Director of Spiritual Life, Gail Cantor. Cantor says, “Our Interfaith Service on February 18 has as the theme, ‘Love Not Hate.’ In light of the rise in hate crimes in our state and in our country, we will pause that evening to remind ourselves to choose love over hate. Members of the Endicott Christian Community, the Jewish Community at Endicott, and others will offer prayers and readings from various faith traditions to encourage us to embrace compassion, respect each other, and increase dialogue in our interactions with one another. Our interfaith music ensemble, Constellation, will provide uplifting musical selections.
“The most fundamental underpinning of every faith tradition and all secular character-building education is what is known to most as the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat one another with respect regardless of differences. At our Interfaith Service, we will come together to strengthen our resolve to live with each other in peace and love.”
Later that evening, at 6:30 p.m. in the Interfaith Chapel, we will be screening the film An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition, a documentary project created to impact the public discourse on race. The effort is being sponsored by Cantor, Advisor to the ALANA club, Janessa Gonzalez, and The Heathmere Center for Cultural Engagement. Lauren Barthold, program developer for the Heathmere Center as well as adjunct philosophy professor at Endicott,” says, “The film does a great job at portraying the mostly unknown history of some positive actions amongst different races in a way that celebrates the agency of marginalized people and the goodwill of allies to show that we really are ‘better together.’ In this day and age, it’s crucial for students to learn about our history: both the painful as well as positive truths.”
Prior to the official Better Together Days dates, our Writing Center will be holding a contest from February 10–14 where co-authored submissions written loosely on the theme “better together” will be accepted. Five finalists will be chosen and the winner will be announced on February 19 in the Interfaith Chapel at 4 p.m. The pieces will be read aloud to the Endicott community, and snacks will be served. Kacy Fallon, director of the writing center says, “Writing contests encourage students to see writing as more than an assignment. My life's goal is to make writing accessible—and fun too! This contest will further foster our growing writing community on campus.”
After the presentation, at 5:30 p.m., Warren Jaferian, dean of international education, will host an Intercultural Dinner in the Interfaith Chapel with Cantor.
On the following day, February 19, the Tutoring and Writing Centers will host a Culture and Conversation Lunch based on religion and the better together theme.
Throughout the week, the Diane M. Halle Library will have a display of books from lauded author, Eboo Patel. For those who don’t know about Patel, he is known far and wide for his national nonprofit, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). The IFYC is an “organization working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.”
Beyond his role as the leader of IFYC, he was a member of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council and has written four book: Acts of Faith, Sacred Ground, Interfaith Leadership: A Primer, and Out of Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and the American Promise. His platform is one of the main influences that have informed our own Better Together Days.
The Halle Library will also sponsor an event on February 19 at noon in the Big Book Room where people can come and share poems, books, writings, quotes, etc., that are meaningful to them regarding diversity, equity, interfaith cooperation, and more. It will be open to students, staff, and faculty, and lunch will be served.
On February 20, Assistant Director, Residence Life, Max Coronel, together with Cantor will present, American Concentration Camps Past and Present: Popular Resistance and the Movements for Justice at noon in the Interfaith Chapel. Coronel says, “The session will review the story of my grandparents and 120,000 other Japanese and Japanese Americans’ mass removal and incarceration during World War II in the United States. We will review the conditions of the camps and how people survived and resisted. We will then discuss the current camps in the United States for migrants and the injustices perpetrated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The session will conclude with comparing the repetition of history and an overview of current movements seeking immigrant justice.”
Then, from 2-4 p.m. the Division of Academic Success will be taking Stronger Together, Better Together photos in the lower level of the Callahan Center. These shots will be taken by photography students. Endicott community members are encouraged to invite people who they feel are supportive and make them stronger and more successful, demonstrating that they are “Better Together.” Everyone is encouraged to share their experience on social media.
And finally, at 4 p.m. we will close the event with a “Stronger Together, Better Together” sparkling apple cider toast to celebrate.
Aside from formal events, Director of Community Service, Andrea Rhoades and Assistant Dean of Students, Student Affairs, Lauri Rawls will provide multiple give-back opportunities including an Intergenerational Charity Craft Night with the Charity Craft Club on February 18 from 5–7 p.m., an Empty Bowl Paint Night to Combat Hunger on February 19 from 6–8 p.m. with proceeds going to Open Door Food Pantry, a Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 21, and a program called Plant Seeds of Service with Full Circle Earth on February 22 from 1–3 p.m.
Rhoades says, “I am really excited about the programs we are running during Better Together Week as we will be hosting three intergenerational service events working with our own students from various clubs, majors, and years in partnership with elders of the community, local elementary school students, and children with special needs. It is great to be able to collaborate with so many nonprofits and bring diverse groups of volunteers together to combat important issues including hunger, homelessness, and sustainability. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said ‘there is power in unity, and there is power in numbers.’”
On top of those events, The Alliance, with Advisor, Brianna Bono will be facilitating a week-long activity called the Unity Canopy in the Callahan Center throughout the week. Bono says, “The Unity Canopy is an interactive art installation made up of peoples different identities. It is created by taking strands of yarn and wrapping them around surrounding poles labeled with various identities you may associate with, then bringing the yarn back to the center pole labeled ‘I am Human’ when they are finished. Together, our different identities create a beautiful and colorful canopy.”
For those seeking a flexible way to participate, Associate Professor, Communication, Todd Wemmer will be providing a curated collection of podcasts relevant to the theme that anyone can listen to on their own time.
In addition, all week long our Department of International Education will provide the opportunity for students to have their picture taken in a photo frame that has “Better Together” in many languages in the Halle Library, and the Interfaith Chapel will have a specifically-designed display for the week.
It is our hope that these events help our students, staff, and faculty bond on a deeper level, and that the interest raised will help us usher in a novel event happening on our campus in April 2020.
On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, Endicott will have the distinct honor of hosting Eboo Patel. To learn more about him, please visit his website. If you would like to attend the event, please visit events.endicott.edu where a notification will be posted closer to the date.