Representatives of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity will converge at Tennessee Tech University again this year to discuss the role of community service in their faiths.
The forum, whose theme is “What does service mean in your religion,” will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the multipurpose room of the Roaden University Center. The event is free and open to all who want to have an open discussion about service in faith.
“The conversations highlight the importance of community service to all religions,” said Michelle Huddleston, TTU’s service coordinator. “The event was wildly popular last year.”
The forum is part of an ongoing effort to recruit people of all faiths to participate in the university’s service projects. It was prompted by a call from the White House to promote interfaith cooperation and community service on college campuses across the country. Of the 250 universities nationwide that answered President Obama’s call, TTU was the only public institution in the state.
“Our participation changed the way we recruit volunteers for all service projects,” Huddleston said. “I think we were all more affected by watching diverse students work alongside one another for a common goal than by the amount of work they did.”
Over the summer, a small group of students, faculty and staff was invited to a forum in Washington, D.C., to discuss the effect the president’s initiative has had on the campus. TTU was one of five universities across the country to be highlighted in a panel of success stories.
Last year, TTU’s Service Center used the interfaith forum to wrap up the end of a year of events. The forum’s popularity prompted them to move it earlier in the school year. Two initiatives will be announced – on-campus food bank and a backpack project that will provide food to needy school children in Jackson and Clay counties.
Though the forum is free, attendees are asked to donate a non-perishable food item to help kick off the projects.
TTU English instructor Andrew Smith will moderate the panel, which will comprise the Rev. Pat Handlson, of Cookeville's First Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Bill Tepper, of Mizpah Congregation in Chattanooga; Kanai Lal Mukherjee, who will discuss Hinduism; Bob Harwood, representing Buddhism; Imam Ossama Bahloul, of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro; and Jenn Ulschak, a lay minister from Cookeville's Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
The event is funded by TTU's Center Stage and One World organization.