ELKINS - Davis & Elkins College students recently joined with their peers from Appalachian region colleges to share their religious and spiritual values and explore ways to embrace interfaith on their campuses. Initiated by D&E, the Peacemaking in Appalachia: Blueprints for Building Bridges to Interfaith Appreciation and Cooperation Conference took place at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown.
The conference was one of six gatherings in the nation to be awarded funding from the Interfaith Youth Core as part of its Regional Leadership Lab Initiative. Davis & Elkins partnered with Westminster College, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Harless Center for West Virginia University to organize the event. Also attending were Ohio University and representatives from Campus Compact.
The Rev. Kevin Starcher, Benfield-Vick Chaplain at D&E, said the idea was to bring colleges together to give students an opportunity to learn what others are doing to enhance interfaith activities.
“Religion can divide us or bring us together to let us appreciate the diversity of the human experience,” Starcher said. “The focus of the conference was how we value and appreciate the religious diversity found on college campuses.”
Starcher and Dr. Bryan Wagoner, assistant professor of religious studies and philosophy, accompanied students Jonathan Gabel of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Julia Hancock of Monroeville, Pa., Emmett Jaeger of Los Alamitos, Calif., Abbagayle Peterson of Mercersburg, Pa., Will Roboski of Elkins, MacKinzie Smith of Renick, W.Va., and Megan Walters of Charmco, W.Va.
The two-day conference included a visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Morgantown and sessions in which students talked about their religions, learned about religious traditions in Appalachia, shared examples of initiating interfaith work and created action plans for their campuses.
Previously, D&E students have hosted events celebrating holidays for various religions. Starcher said the students hope to expand on these activities this fall.
“I trust that ideas from this conference will nurture the seeds to further strengthen the spiritual life on campus,” Starcher said. “Every single evaluation stated that it was meaningful; however, they wished the conference could have lasted longer so that they could dive deeper into the subject.”
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: As part of the Peacemaking in Appalachia conference, students visited the Tree of Life Synagogue in Morgantown. Westminster College student Josh Mascoop, right, reads from the Torah Scroll and is observed by, from left, Davis & Elkins College students Jonathan Gabel, Will Roboski and Abbagayle Peterson and Westminster student Hunter Steinitz.