I’ve never considered myself a person of faith, despite being raised around family members who identify with various different denominations of Christianity. Around the age of twelve, I decided to identify as agnostic and have done ever since, as I consider myself open-minded when it comes to religion and spirituality. As such, I find discussions of faith fascinating as it is often an internal quality, so inward and reflective. To give a voice to those inner feelings and beliefs can be both difficult and beautiful, particularly when you are trying to describe those very personal opinions to someone who may not share the same views.
This is a feat that Voices Volume Two aims to achieve, centered around the notion of interfaith among students on campus. As an ongoing project aimed at “providing a platform for students whose voices might previously have been lost in the noise”, an anthology of interviews dedicated to faith highlights those groups that may usually feel underrepresented. The launch of Voices Volume Two was celebrated on Monday 4th December in the multi-faith chaplaincy on campus with a quiet evening full of pizza and insightful conversation.
The multi-faith chaplaincy was the perfect setting for the launch, not only for its spiritual purpose but for the sheer cosiness of the building. As someone who has never visited the chaplaincy before, I was stunned by the welcome sight of sofas and fairy lights in what looks at first glance as the interior of someone’s homely cottage. The whole room radiates warmth and comfort, a mood well-suited to an intimate discussion of personal faith. Pizzas were laid out and the magazines distributed as students gradually drifted in, filling the room with soft voices and smiling faces whilst people searched for their interviews, gushing over how wonderful and strange it felt to see their own image staring back at them from the page.
Giving a short speech on the growth of the project, Harry Bishop (FXU President Community and Welfare) noted the positive impact Voices is having on the student community - to the extent that students in Italy and America have read the publication. Closer to home, students here in Cornwall have responded encouragingly with outpourings of support and praise for Voices, with the social media campaign accompanying each publication constantly expanding in reach.
In the foreword to Volume Two, Izzy Lenga (NUS UK Vice President Welfare) addresses the "hatred and intolerance" that pervades our society and has grown in our universities. While interfaith serves individual student populations on campuses across the country as a meeting point between different groups, Izzy explains that interfaith holds a wider function as "the sustainable tool we use to build the fair, welcoming and diverse society that all progressives are working towards." In his own speech on the impactful quality of Voices, Harry similarly suggested that the project holds a much bigger purpose beyond the boundaries of our small campus here in Penryn. Voices has created a lasting legacy in each student that has and will interact with the project, teaching its readers that the qualities of tolerance, equality, and acceptance are much needed in our increasingly divided world.
These may seem like big, abstract ideas to aspire to, but the beauty of Voices is how it achieves the expression of such concepts through an acutely personal lense. In chatting to Nellie Hughes, the photographer for Volume Two, I discovered how that personal feel was achieved visually with this volume, as every interviewee chose the location for the image accompanying their article. Every photograph in the anthology has a physically radiant quality about it, communicating the elevating nature of faith for the individual. As you make your way through the stories, you will come to realise that faith - as diverse as it is - is presented as bright in so many ways. Through the ups and downs of joy and grief, faith has provided these students with a touchstone to hold on to. Most importantly, faith is expressed as an ongoing journey: there are dilating moments of doubt and certainty, resulting in greater strength and an acceptance of identity. The whole magazine can be aptly described as an embrace, both in its acceptance of multiplicity and the presentation of these voices as an espousal of openness.