Interfaith Exploration of the Soul over Soul Food
August 25, 2022
This past spring, Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, hosted an Interfaith Prayer Luncheon, inviting members of the Wiley community, inclusive of faculty, staff, students and administrators, to gather in the Fred Long Student Union and share their faith stories and journey through “meaning-making” exercises with campus faith leadership.
The Luncheon was held during “A [HOLY WEEK] of Righteous Indignation.” The thematic thrust was an ode to the liturgical celebration of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Holy Week, and a call to action on how various faith traditions inform justice. Each day of the week had either a faith or justice bend. The goal of the luncheon was to build a corps of students and campus faith leaders who champion inclusion and understand, support, and develop campus interfaith initiatives, scholarship, and support mechanisms that foster sharing and respect, a true reflection of the soul. This was all done during the weekly offering of good old southern soul food – fried chicken, collard greens, creamed corn, corn bread and sweet tea.
The state of Texas currently boasts nine historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Founded in a time when Blacks’ opportunity in higher education was scant or non-existent, these institutions, mostly founded by Christian denominations, have made significant contributions to the tapestry of higher education. These safe havens of higher learning have also been trend-setters and innovators, especially in civic engagement.
Faith Forward: Sharing and Respecting, the overall theme submitted to IA, with hopes to be a bridge-building campaign of the nine historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) of Texas – Wiley College, Paul Quinn College, Huston-Tillotson University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas College, St. Philips College, Jarvis Christian College, Texas Southern University, and Southwestern Christian College began at Wiley College during the Interfaith Prayer Luncheon. Led by 17th president/CEO Herman J. Felton, J.D., Ph.D., Wiley College is a premier liberal arts institution, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, with an intentional focus on social good and leadership.
“The luncheon gave me an opportunity to learn information about my classmates that I never knew, for example that a friend had grown up going to Jewish elementary school, even though her parents were Pentecostal. When she shared her experiences, she talked about the differences and similarities of these faiths,” said Larry Hampton, president of the Wiley College Student Government Association.
Another student, Tre’Vion Daniel, a chapel service worship leader, talked about the information that was shared during the luncheon. “When we sat down, we got a chance to hear about Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers. It was interesting hearing where and how people from these major religious pray – some every day, others multiple times of day.”
The vice president of student development and enrollment management, Danielle Sims-Brooks Ed.D., gave her own narrative of working at other religiously affiliated institutions and how her own faith journey was developed from various spaces. “I enjoyed being able to share my own perspective with the community. So often we think that our experiences are disconnected, but based on the luncheon, what is most personal is that which is most universal.”
Other programs throughout Religious Emphasis Week included a spiritual kickback with students, chapel service with the entire college community, gospel hump day, faith & wellness fair, community service, gospel concert with Zacardi Cortez, and daily prayer around the campus. Each of the events was in-line with the chapel’s mantra of having participants inspired through “Spirituality, Service and Scholarship.”
This luncheon was underwritten by the Interfaith Youth Core (now Interfaith America) Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Co-Curricular Award.
Rev. Cecil Andrew Duffie
The Reverend Cecil Andrew Duffie, Ph.D., serves as Dean of Chapel at the Julius S. Scott, Sr. Chapel of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Dean Duffie earned an M.Div., Ph.D., and a Certificate of Executive Leadership from Howard University. Additionally, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication with a minor in Education from the University of Florida. Dr. Duffie’s research interests have been in the area of spiritual formation and college & university black chaplaincy in the 21st century.