tradition of openness
As the Brown University Pastor and Department of Religious Affairs celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, pastor Janet Cooper Nelson reflected on Brown’s achievements as a pioneer in being tolerant of all faiths. In fact, it is written in his 1764 charter of the university.
The section titled “Prohibition of Religious Tests” outlines that such tests are in no way predictive of admission. Brown University was the only institution of higher education in the country at the time that took such an approach. The charter goes on to state that “all members shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute and uninterrupted freedom of conscience” and that “youths of all religious denominations shall, during their stay, be held to the same and shall receive generous and equal treatment.” ”
While it has remained an unwavering principle for more than two and a half centuries, Professor Cooper Nelson said the university and its religious leaders are working to better serve the Brown community while deepening its emphasis on inclusivity and representativeness. He said that he has continued to innovate and evolve in order to do so.
Before Cooper Nelson arrived in 1990, she said the pastor’s office helped establish the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender. Now known as the Brown Center for Students of Color. Swearer Center. Until the 1990s, the Brown Togaloo Partnership was also under the agency’s jurisdiction.
“The office was tied to racial justice, women’s justice and economic justice,” Cooper-Nelson said. “These are all significant issues in any spiritual community I’ve ever been a part of.”
But it’s also important to be more transparent about how faith intertwines with these issues, Cooper-Nelson said.
During her first few years at Brown University, she worked with the Religious Commission to interview 50 university leaders and survey more than 1,500 community members. This effort led to the restructuring of the office in 1998 and laid the foundation for today’s office. This reorganization prioritized student-centered learning and contributed to the creation of a community of pastors across religious traditions who provided counsel, counsel, and pastoral care to the entire Brown community.
“An important principle of the kind of work we have done is the idea of what it belongs to. yousaid Cooper Nelson. “Please come [to religious life events and programs] Out of curiosity, we’re trying to connect you to something that could also be your job. ”
Beyond the myriad religious groups on campus, Brown sponsors events such as dedicated prayer and meditation rooms, expanded dining options for Kosher and Halal abiding students, and silent retreats for the Brown meditation community. , and provide resources such as assistance to students who need to identify. If your needs are not met in the dining hall, you have your own kitchen and cooking area. That support was very important for students like Junior Moksha Katia. One of the student coordinators of the Thursday night interreligious banquet, Katia is a member of the Bhochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha sect of Hinduism and follows a very specific diet.
“Everyone I met was not only curious about my dietary requirements, but also very kind and supportive,” he says, avoiding all foods, including meat, eggs, fish, onions and garlic. said Katya, who has Made in the same facility as these materials.
Experiencing a wide range of religious resources was especially inspiring for senior Shirley Don, a member of the 2023 class of graduates dedicated to applied mathematics.
“Browns are very diverse, not only with different religious traditions, but within the religions themselves,” Dong said. “When I first came here, I didn’t expect this much scope.
Dong has practiced his faith through on-campus religious groups, while also pursuing interfaith engagement. She leads the Brown Christian Fellowship, which holds weekly meetings for Bible study and prayer, and partners with Church Beyond the Walls, which serves the homeless every Saturday at Kennedy Plaza in Providence. ing.