This year I became one of the proctors is Smith Hall. I have always been excited and proud to be part of the residential life staff. The proctor job is, after all, one of Sewanee’s many great traditions. Being a procter, however, comes with certain obligations, one being another great Sewanee tradition: chapel duty. For the non res-life folks out there, chapel duty consists of passing out programs, taking the collection, and ushering for communion at the Sunday church service.
Now I am all about tradition, but as I was sitting in the back of the service this weekend, I wondered how this would feel if I was a religion other than Episcopal. My quick religious background to show where I am coming from with this; I was raised Episcopalian, but have found as I have aged thta I prefer not to identify with any one sect. I do not have a strong aversion to this specific Sewanee tradition, but I do think it is important to note that most schools do not require attendance to a religious ceremony, even as part of a job.
Proctors and Gownsmen preparing for a ceremony in All Saint’s
With my interest peaked on how religion impacts our Sewanee experience I sat down with, Emmy Walters, a junior English major who is the cofounder of the Theta Pible Study, and is involved in many other religious organizations on campus. Since I am a science major, and the topic of religion is barely brought up in most of my classes, I thought it would be interesting to see what a non-science major thought about religion’s impact on the Sewanee experience.
Emmy believes that religion comes up in classes only when it is relevant to a text, and believes opinions not allied with the Episcopal church are valued in classes when expressed. She also stated that her relationship with God and her religious organizations were no different than any other extracurricular activity. She has made friends in those organizations, but she also has friends from all different parts of campus and from all different religious paths.
Overall, religion on campus is as big a part of the Sewanee experience as the student wants it to be. I believe, in regards to chapel duty, that the experience is what you make it. It can be religious, or it can be seen as participating in one of Sewanee’s wonderful traditions. While I think it can be seen as the “forcing” of religion, I think that having such traditions is what makes Sewanee such a great place to go to school; a student can believe in whatever he or she wants, but still believe in the integrity and history of our institution. YSR.