Wilkes University’s Interfaith Office encourages students, faculty, and staff to learn and interact with various faith groups in the local area, in order to enrich, strengthen and even learn more about a particular faith.
There are a variety of services, faith-based events, information sessions and celebrations that are always taking place throughout campus. However, recently, the Interfaith Office at Wilkes University is offering House of Worship Tours. They will occur throughout September and the first week of October, which are being led by Kristin Osipower.
Those who wish to attend do not need to be part of a specific religion or denomination.
The purpose for these visits is to give individuals an opportunity to enrich their faith while also learning about different faiths and religions. It also allows students to see the beauty and architecture of some of these Houses of Worship since they are an integral part of our community.
The tours are relatively new, as they started two weeks ago and it’s the first time they’ve been introduced to Wilkes University. They will take place each week, and for those interested will visit an array of houses of worship from different religions and denominations. Visits typically last 45 minutes to an hour.
There is also a lot of flexibility with these visits because there are several different churches and houses of worship to visit. “I’m welcoming going to all different houses of worship,” said Osipower. Many times we walk by these places and now here’s the chance to go inside and see what they are all about, whether it be a temple or a church.
Another added benefit to these visits is that students who live on campus have an easier opportunity to attend because Osipower tries to pick churches close to campus, so transportation won’t become a problem.
If a student or faculty member is already active in their own faiths, then this gives them the opportunity to still go to the church of their choice, or to broaden and learn more about another faith.
The tours are open to everyone, including families of students and those that attend do not have to practice a religion. “I’m hoping that people step outside their comfort zone a little bit and attend some of these because it’s really meant to engage and encourage student to explore the issues of religion and spirituality. It’s not meant to convert or be preachy in any way,” said Osipower.
This also gives students the possibility to not only interact with their clergy and learn about the place of religion in their own lives, but it also allows students to explore their communities.
The first visit was to First Presbyterian and students were invited to celebrate the kickoff to the new school year and they celebrated with a barbecue social afterward. “They opened it to our community to participate,” said Osipower.
Also, last spring, the baccalaureate service was held for the First Presbyterian. This service received a great response from the public, “The response was incredible, both in turn out and how people felt and responded to being inside in a sacred space. Because of the warm reception I received from baccalereate, I thought this was something our community would respond to,” said Osipower.
These visits can also be inspirational for people. Osipower mentioned that when she was in college she was required to attend different houses of worship for a religion class. She found it intimidating at first because she needed to step outside of her comfort zone spiritually.
By doing this she realized that she was wrong on so many levels about how that faith practiced and they’re much more welcoming than she had thought they were. “It was very eye-opening to me about how much people of faith have in common and that I can use the differences not to create diversity but rather to build myself and to affirm what I believe,” said Osipower.
It’s this personal experience that drives Osipower to make these visits accessible to students and faculty throughout campus and encourage students to step outside their comfort zone spiritually.
While these visits are a new addition to the Interfaith Office at Wilkes University, Osipower hopes to follow up with these visits in the future because it’s a way for students and faculty alike to learn more about various faiths and “grow as an individual,” said Osipower.
Overall, this is a way for Wilkes University students and faculty to continue to build relationships with various places in the local community because they can help to enhance campus life.
Ms. Osipower mentioned that there are already students who teach religious education courses at some of the churches, and they’ve gotten involved in music ministry at these various churches.
The Interfaith Office is also working on a pregame service for the football team. This is meant to not only to include prayer but also motivational words for our athletes.
Going forward, it seems that these visits have a positive response and it’s important to spread the word in order for students to step out of their comfort zone spiritually. In fact, four other churches have contacted Ms. Osipower asking to be placed on the tour list in the future so that students may visit those as well.
While these visits are relatively new, the next one will be this coming weekend at Parker Hill Church, 667 N River St. The service will be in the afternoon on Sunday.