Manchester focus on faith
Students decorate the sidewalk outside the JYSC with chalk to announce Focus on Faith week dates and activities.
Photo by MU Peace Studies

CIB Hosts Focus on Faith Week

Dylan Hines

Focus on Faith Week was a resounding success, according to Rebekah Houff, university pastor and advisor for the Campus Interfaith Board.

Focus on Faith Week is run by this board, which is a group of students of varying faiths and beliefs. “It is all student-led; I’m like their staff,” Houff said, laughing. The Campus Interfaith Board puts on education events throughout the year. focusing on varying faiths of the students on campus. They try and collaborate with religious life groups on campus, whether that’s collaborating or highlighting normal club events.

“It’s probably my favorite things about my job.” Houff said. “I love learning about different faiths other than my own.” She cites working with the Interfaith Board as one of the reasons she initially applied at Manchester.

This year, one of the events that Houff described as hugely successful was their interfaith show and tell. “It was beautiful,” she said as she described the event, where everyone involved brought something that was significant to their life and faith and shared the meaning with the group.

There was also an interfaith luncheon to highlight the varying beliefs of faculty, staff and students. “[We] have them share a bit of their story to see the diversity on this campus and what faith looks like through the eyes of another person,” Houff said.

She says that this event is to help show that we are a diverse campus, and noted that “learning, faith, and service are core to who we are as Manchester, but that looks different for all of us.”

Another event featured this year was a drum circle, which Houff described as a relaxing thing to do for the week.

Typically, Focus on Faith Week coincides with an appropriate VIA, and this year was no different, with a VIA that Monday with Reverend Steve Miller of the Truth and Reconciliation Project. “Even if no one did anything else for Focus on Faith Week, they might have gone to the VIA.” Houff said. Having an appropriately timed VIA helps to raise the profile of Focus on Faith Week.

Focus on Faith Week predates the Campus Interfaith Board, which was originally the campus ministry board. While she didn’t have an exact date, sometime in the late nineties or early 2000’s, the name was intentionally changed to more explicitly highlight the diversity of campus.

She cited the diversity of students, with more students identifying as non-religious or leaving the section blank, as well as small populations of Muslim, Hindu, and Pagan students. “All that stuff is given voluntarily, so some folks don’t want to share, and that’s fine. I just like to know as best as I can so that I can make sure we’re offering things for students and making them feel welcome.” Houff said. “We want everyone to feel that they are valued here and that they belong here.”

She also discussed how the acceptance of various on campus groups was extremely satisfying. In particular, she mentioned how the Pagans club and United Sexualities and Genders having a positive relationship with the church and the interfaith board was something she was glad to see.

Houff is in her sixth year at Manchester. She also serves as the director of church relations for the campus and as a success advisor. She is responsible for the relationship between Manchester University and the Church of the Brethren. She advises students to get involved with campus activities. “If something sounds interesting in Focus on Faith Week or Peace Week, come and show up,” she said. “We will welcome you, we will be so glad that you’re here, we’ll probably even have food.”