Outside of my Comfort Zone

My family moved to Guelph when I was 10 years old. I had always planned on doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and even pursuing graduate studies here (but I’m not quite there yet). This hasn’t really changed. I am now in the process of completing my undergrad at the University of Guelph.

Over the past few years, my time at the University of Guelph has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and venture into a new country through the Study Abroad program, as well step into the role of Faith Ambassador with the Multi-Faith Resource Team through the Peer Helper program.

Through the Centre for International Programs, I was able to spend a semester in the UK. This was an incredible experience and one that ten years ago I never would have even entertained the thought. Meeting new people is not the easiest for me to do. I find it a great challenge to step into a new space and greet unfamiliar faces. I had to do a lot of this while I was away. Spending a semester in Wales meant that I had put myself in an entirely new environment where I did not know anyone. There were no familiar faces to turn to. I knew this going into the semester, but as it approached, I became more and more uncomfortable with it. Little did I know, that when it came time to go home I wouldn’t want to.

With fear and excitement, I entered into my new home for the semester. I would soon be meeting the other girls in my flat for the first time. What would they be like? Will we get along? Will they like me? These questions were running through my head. After our introductions, it was clear that it was going to be fun living with them. Each of them were so intentional about including one another in different activities. I was invited to attend different events with them throughout “freshers week” and it continued through the semester. We often spent evenings together sharing a meal or watching a movie. These are friends that I will never forget.

I found myself sharing a number of things about my faith and what it means to me to be a Christian that I never found the courage to do before. I also found myself attending events on my own and having conversations with new faces more often than I would have expected. I met many other Christians on campus through their Christian Union and created some incredible connections. I truly met some amazing people while I was away. Hearing their passion for Christ has really energized me to show that in everything I do.

When I came back home, I was encouraged to take a position on the planning committee for the Gryphons Care Dinner, another new experience for me. It was a new experience because I, in the past, I had refrained from stepping into large commitments while studying. I am very glad that I did that. I was able to see how I could manage doing more beyond my studies. And it made my semester much more enjoyable.

These experiences lead me to consider applying for a position as a Peer Helper on the Multi-Faith Resource Team, another new for me. This is an even bigger commitment than just planning one major event. So far it has been a great opportunity for me to participate more in the University of Guelph community and meet new people of different faith backgrounds. It has challenged me to think past my own beliefs and traditions to incorporate other aspects of different students’ faiths in planning different events. Things like food and the timing of events are important to consider for a number of reasons. Different faiths have different traditions and holiday seasons, all of which are important to consider when planning. I am excited for what my time as a faith ambassador will show me in my own faith development as well as what I will learn from other members of the Guelph community who have different beliefs. I am encouraged to know that so many are open and willing to listen to where I come from.

These are some of my reflections on experiences in which I have stepped outside of my comfort zone. They do not need to be as big steps as travelling alone. Stepping outside of my comfort zone has been a rewarding experience for me thus far and I plan to continue to push myself to do this more often. It has greatly impacted my faith development and my excitement for new opportunities in very positive ways and I would like to encourage others to try it every once and a while.

Meet the Team!

 

Hey U of G!

Have you ever spent time in Raithby on campus, in the building or on the front porch? Come out to Outreach Day? Hung out with friends at a multi-faith games night? You’ve probably run into the Multi-Faith Peer team then! We run events on campus that are aimed at the different faith groups our university has, and also for all students to come out and just relax and unwind. Since we’ll hopefully see you this year, let’s introduce ourselves.

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From left to right: Harman, Rachael, Shannon and Jeryn. Not pictured: Hamna

Hamna Syeda

Hamna is a fifth year Human Kinetics student at Guelph. She has been a part of the Multi-Faith Resource Team for three years because of her passion for interfaith solidarity and collaboration. Learning about religion has always interested her and with the Multi Faith team she can translate her passion into action. She likes reading, drawing and kayaking in the summertime.

Shannon Pendleton

Shannon is in her fourth year of the Adult Development program. Her interest in collaboration and finding common ground with others sparked her curiosity in Multi-Faith, and she’s been hooked since. You can also find her working on campus at Student Life, or just relaxing at home with tea and a book.

Rachael Carrick

My name is Rachael Carrick and I am a fourth year marketing student. This is my first year being a Faith Ambassador and I am very excited to be involved in the University of Guelph community in this capacity! I like to play mostly any sports, but ultimate frisbee is my favourite, and enjoy being outside. On campus, the arboretum is my favourite spot to walk around.

Jeryn Mackey

Jeryn is from Fort St. John – a small city in northern British Columbia – and is currently at the University of Guelph studying landscape architecture.
She grew up in a Catholic family, and is currently on the exec team of the University Catholic Community.
She loves all things outdoorsy, as well as coffee, crosswords, and Hugh Jackman (because he seems like he’d be fun to hang out with).

Harman Mundi

Hey, I’m Harman! I’m a second year Poli Sci and History dual major and I sometimes do stuff and things, like I’m Vice President over at the Sikh Student Association, although I’m not Sikh, which doesn’t matter. I don’t really know what else should go in my bio, like, should I tell y’all my like story? I don’t know-I’m just kinda thinking out loud here. OH! Why I joined the Multi Faith Resource Team! Well, despite the whole atheism thing, I think religion and religious history education is incredibly important for any person that subscribes to any religion. Through MFRT I thought I would be able to help make that happen by opening dialogue between the different faith and non-faith based organizations at the University.

 

And that wraps it up! We hope to see you all throughout the year, perhaps at our Games night happening very soon on Thursday, October 13th! Check us out on GryphLife to get all the details.

Finding Spritiuality Without Religion

Sunset HDR over the oceanOne of the first questions I always get asked when people find out I’m a Multi-Faith Ambassador is what faith I identify with. Surprise—I don’t! While I was raised within a Christian household, and we do celebrate Christmas and Easter, to me these holidays represent a time to reconnect with loved ones and take the time to really be present with each other. None of my family members are particularly observant either, so for all of us, it can be a bit daunting to describe what faith means.

So how do you find spirituality or even faith if you don’t belong to a religious group? Well, you certainly have options. Now more than ever, people tend to be more accepting of diverse view points and unique beliefs. To help you with this process, here are some tips I could’ve used before, had I known what this experience would teach me.

  1. Pool your resources. As a student, you’re in one of the best positions to receive help and guidance. From Counselling Services, to Student Support Network, to all the faith clubs right on campus, there’s an abundance of people here all willing to talk to you about faith, spirituality, and finding meaning. A quick Google search or look over the University website can set you on the right track.
  2. Meditate. This doesn’t have to be a solid one hour spent alone with your eyes closed, but finding a few minutes a day to help clarify what your values are can help you define your spirituality on your own terms. There’s even a meditation group on campus that can help get you started, or you can drop in to Raithby to use the sunroom when it’s not booked.
  3. Don’t feel like you need a label. While labels are great for storage boxes, they’re not always as helpful for people. It may feel comfortable to have a neat word you can use to define your faith/spirituality, but don’t make it mandatory.
  4. Discuss, but don’t defend. Feel free to talk about values, morality, and faith with friends, family, and other people in your life. These conversations can be great at clarifying your thoughts and gaining new ideas. However, do not let these talks digress into defending your point of view. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts—you don’t have to justify yourself (unless you really want to).
  5. Learn to enjoy the journey. This is a big one. If you don’t enjoy the process, then why are you on this path? Make sure you enjoy the meaning of being on your own journey, or else what was the point of all that work?

 

And remember: no one understands your values better than you. It may be difficult and feel weird, but at the end of the day, if you are happy with the way you are defining your spirituality, then you’re on the right track.


Contributed by Shannon Pendleton – Multi-Faith Resource Team

If you are looking for a place to explore faith and spirituality, contact the Multi-Faith Resource Team at faith@uoguelph.ca

Risen: Film Review

Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) remains set in his ways after serving 25 years in the army. He arrives at a crossroad when he was required to investigate the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion. Accompanied by his trusted friend Lucius (Tom Felton), his quest to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah makes him question his own beliefs and spirituality. As his journey takes him to places never dreamed of, Clavius discovers the truth that he’s been seeking… (IMDb, 2016)

Watch the trailer

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Image copyright Sony Pictures

I recently went to the see the film Risen, directed by Kevin Reynolds (of “Waterworld,” and “Fandango”) and co-written by Reynolds and Paul Aiello. This movie has battle sequences, superb imagery of plains and hills, as well as touching lines that reach deep into your heart.

 

Joseph Fiennes’ character, Clavius, the leading role in this movie, was assigned by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to guard the cave where the supposed messiah’s remains are being stored after overseeing the deaths of several Hebrew prisoners. The two exhausted soldiers he assigns to the task get drunk and fall asleep, and the next morning the remains were gone. This was a nightmare to the Romans. There were talks of a miraculous return. The emperor, Tiberius, was going to visit soon, and he needed to see that the territory was firmly under Roman control, not trembling by news that Yeshua is still out there.  Continue reading

Lending a helping hand

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I am a frequent visitor of the Humans of New York page on Facebook. One of the series on the page that caught my attention was “The Syrian Americans”. The series consisted of stories from various Syrian refugee families that would be settling in the United States. It was a brilliant way of humanizing the refugee families that have been receiving so much backlash across the globe. Some of the stories shared, such as the one titled The Scientist, brought tears to my eyes. The sheer will-power and determination of these humans to go on despite their circumstances amazed me. Subsequently, I began looking into Syrian refugee families arriving in my city, Guelph. Continue reading

Why Practice Meditation? Why Not!

Last month, the University of Guelph Catholic Community went on their annual student retreat. As a practicing Catholic, I was excited to spend the weekend with other like- minded young people. It was a chance to get away from the stress of university and spend time in quiet reflection. Following this retreat, I have spent a lot of time meditating on what I have learned about myself during the weekend and also how I have grown as a person throughout my university career.

The act of spending time in quiet reflection, whether it be through prayer or meditation, is not something that is unique to the Catholic tradition. Throughout history, different forms of meditation have played large roles in the varying religious and spiritual practices. While many religions have the same core practices, each differs in its unique collection of symbols, teachings, and stories. Even those who do not practice a religion can find benefit in the practice of meditation.

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Scientifically, the act of meditation has been shown to have substantial physical effects. In a study of middle- aged migraine sufferers who were otherwise healthy individuals, those who practiced meditation- based stress reduction therapy had less debilitating and shorter migraines than before they began the meditation protocol. Likewise, a study of students who practiced similar meditation techniques reported a lower level of perceived stress, and well as an increase in compassion towards their peers. There have been these and countless more studies that have shown the effectiveness of taking time out of our busy lives to reflect- whether this reflection be religious based in the form of prayer or just meditating on the day’s events and calming the mind.

Students are constantly plagued with a sometimes overwhelming level of stress. In view of mental health initiatives, it is important that we are aware of our psychological well- being. Meditation is one technique that may prove helpful for stressed students who are looking for time to relax and focus their mind. Whether religious or not, we can all benefit on spending time looking inward and reflecting on who we are and our interactions with others.

Some students may spend this quiet meditation time alone, or in the presence of others. Some faith groups on campus offer a form of meditation that is unique to their religion and allows those students to worship together. For students at Guelph looking for a non-faith based meditation program, there is an non-denominational meditation happening every Thursday morning at 7:30am in Raithby House. Keep an eye on the Multi-Faith Resource Team social media accounts for upcoming events.

 


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Megan Misner

Contributed by Megan Misner – Multi-Faith Resource Team

If you are looking for a place to explore faith and spirituality, contact the Multi-Faith Resource Team at faith@uoguelph.ca

Finding reconciliation


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First things first, I don’t write things like this very often. By ‘things like this’, I don’t mean blog posts, I mean blog posts that are very personal. It makes me feel vulnerable, and at some point I had decided I did not like being vulnerable. However, in the pursuit of honesty I decided some things need sharing and maybe, just maybe, someone else will find this resonating with them.

Continue reading