Lacy Nguyen|Staff Writer
Forrest Buckner, dean of spiritual life, introduced a new prayer room in the chapel, last week, for student use. The idea for the new room was introduced last year by Buckner when he first began working at Whitworth. Facilities began construction over the summer, and the room was finished and furnished at the beginning of the school year.
“I walked all over campus with some facilities people,” Buckner said. “[We] went through all the dorms to try and find a place so we could have one. We tried to do it in the HUB; we tried to do it in the library. We tried all these different places.”
The proposal for the room was brought to ASWU last spring. Five thousand dollars were allocated to help fund the new prayer room.
“When we went to ASWU they said ‘it would be really nice to have it in the chapel,’” Buckner said. “Then we came back and started talking with our campus ministry staff team, and I don’t know who had the idea, but we thought, ‘What about that closet?’”
There are no formal sign-ups to use the room. Students may use it on a first-come-first-served basis.
“I met in there for my small group for my Christian foundations class,” junior Caitlin Thomas said. “I really liked the atmosphere that they tried to convey of restfulness and the different activities. They have a coloring book in there and a little guest book for people to write in prayers. It just feels like somewhere where I would want to go and spend time with God.”
Despite Whitworth’s commitment to the Christian faith, the chapel and ministry team decided to open the prayer room to all students of all faiths.
“Whitworth doesn’t require students to be Christians to come,” Buckner said. “As an institution, one of the things we want to be is hospitable. So, if you are a student and you need to pray, particularly if you think about Muslim students who may want to pray five times a day or however many times of day, if the Muslim student doesn’t feel comfortable in their dorm room, we want a place where they can do that.”
The room includes multiple journals for students to write in, as well as a prayer rug for Muslim students to use. It does not have any other religious items present such as the Bible, Quran or Torah.
“We want a place for every student to feel like they have that safe space regardless of their faith commitments,” Buckner said. “To have that space to engage in those spiritual practices is something that is valuable to us. We want to be hospitable to every student that comes here.”
The room is intended to send a welcoming message to students of all different faiths, cultures and backgrounds.
“I think the biggest issue that Christian universities run into is compartmentalizing the themes of faith into a certain subset of faith,” spiritual life coordinator Mike Christie said. “I think making a prayer room for all religion is beautiful in the sense that it recognizes the human before the ideology.”
The prayer room is intended to further Whitworth’s commitment to allow students to explore their spirituality, along with the university’s mission statement to “honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity”.
“I think it works, whatever they did in the room,” Thomas said. “I think it’s cool they made an investment in a room that’s catering to being intentional about your faith and providing a space for that. I think that’s important, especially for Whitworth to put their money where their values are.”
The room is open for both individual and group usage.
“We are hoping that students will use this to draw nearer to God, to seek God, and to be with God,” Buckner said.
Contact Lacy Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org