Is college a 4 year vacation from faith? Or is it a 4 year adventure into the depths of religion that was never before explored? I don’t have a definitive yes or no answer to either of those questions, but I think either side is an extremely personal decision that differs based on each college student. I talked earlier about the relationship between religion and the Smithie, but is it possible for religion to spike and take off during college?
Don’t worry, this blog post isn’t going to be 1000+ words worth of mind-bending questions that send your brain into a major spin into the cosmos! But I want to ask the tough questions and encourage thinking to happen in ways that it never before occurred. Heck, I want to think about how my faith has expanded and changed over the course of my going-on 4 years at Smith College, and how similar my experiences might be to other college students as well.
As most of y’all know, I’ve been a church-going chick for my entire life. Almost every Sunday from my infancy through high school, I went first to the Episcopal church in my town, and then later on as a toddler to the RCA church, also in my town. I did the choir, church school, communion, confirmation thing, along with many of my school-mates. Later in High School, I began to look more at allowing God to become a bigger part of my life, rather than just my Sunday church friend. I had never really encountered the world where God existed outside the four walls of my church, and the fact that it was possible was mysterious territory I wanted so desperately to explore. This growth occurred around the time that I was investigating colleges, and looking back on it now, I realize how little church factored consciously into my college choice, but at the same time, how great an impact it has had on my faith as the experience comes to a close.
Unless you go to a Christian college, the likelihood that the average liberal arts college, private or state university will have a widely attended chapel or church service is quite slim. The same goes for Smith, but more so over the last year.
Last year, Smith decided that chaplains weren’t important to have on campus, and effectively eliminated them all. It is bad enough that Smith decided to get rid of the chaplains in the first place, but what is even worse is the message it sent to the students, including myself. I never expected that college would be the place that my faith would grow in leaps and bounds, but it has been, and with much thanks to Smith. It was at Smith that I heard my call to the ministry, and it was here that I felt the greatest amount of love from others not in my family. But at the same time, Smith has dissed its students like me who wish to explore faith during their 4 year term. Despite this, faith at Smith has by no means diminished or disappeared! My faith has grown in the interim, and with the help of bible studies, small groups and good friends, I have been able to explore what I believe and where that will take me in the future.
So…why am I writing about faith and college? I know I haven’t posted in a while (like 2 weeks practically)…but I’ve been thinking a lot about where my faith is going during my last semester in college, and especially as the days tick down to when I move into PTS in July hopefully. I am not able to attend the SCF (aka Smith Christian Fellowship) this semester because I have class from 7:30-9:30 on Thursday nights (aka exactly during their large group!). I’ve been going/involved solidly for nearly 2 years, so what does this mean for my own faith? Typically, I am less than enthusiastic about keeping up with the nuances of being a church-going Christian when I am flying solo. But this time is different, I think. Because seminary isn’t just a pipe dream anymore – it is a reality – I am able to connect differently with my faith, knowing that I am an entirely different person. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I feel different knowing that I will begin my training in the fall, knowing that God will be at the center of my education. My purpose is different, I guess.
What does this mean ultimately for the trend between faith and college, anyway? Not everyone is going to go to seminary after their time in college…NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! But that doesn’t mean that faith can’t grow, change and develop over the course of your 4 years in college. Mine certainly has, no question about that. I think that my personal faith journey has been greatly affected by the friends I have made, some of which I see as my family after all this time. Because ultimately, faith is about family – a family united together under a set of beliefs. I am tied to my friends here at Smith because we have beliefs and faith of all different shapes and sorts. My college experience was the best thing for my faith – I wouldn’t be where I am today without having come to Smith. I guess the message I am trying to send is that college is the time where anything can happen, and you can be anyone or anything. I was able to find and explore my faith in a safe and fail-proof environment, around people who were interested in the same things.
Ok…enough for now! Happy Friday!