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Tufts Greek and Athlete Christian Fellowship connects religion, college experience

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 09:12

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Shelby Carpenter for the Tufts Daily

Many students hope to continue their involvement with faith and fellowship in college, but find it challenging to make the connection between religion and other aspects of their college experience. Tufts Greek and Athlete Christian Fellowship, a group geared toward students involved in Greek life or athletics, aims to provide a safe and supportive place for students to discuss religion and build a relationship between their faith and the rest of their experience at Tufts. 

Because several other religious groups already exist on campus, however, some have questioned the necessity of a group for only athletes and members of Greek life.

The group, which began meeting last spring, is a relatively new addition to the Tufts community, according to sophomore Miriam Gladstone, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF).

Gladstone and several other members of TCF saw the need for a new place to discuss their faith with their teammates and fellow Greeks.

“A main part of starting the group was to bring some of the conversations and ideas and experiences that we were having within religious groups into our teams and Greek houses,” senior Ellen Gage, who is tri-captain of the swimming team, said. “We try to talk about how our faith affects our lives as Greeks and athletes.”

Oftentimes, a student’s relationships within a religious setting differ from those formed on a sports team or in a sorority or fraternity, according to tri-captain of the cross-country team Abby Barker.

“Coming into school freshman year, being in the [Tufts] Christian Fellowship and also being on the cross-country team ... there’s a lot of differences,” Barker, a senior, said. “Those communities are very specific in the way you relate to people.”

Through open conversation, members of the Greek and Athlete Christian Fellowship discuss developing one’s faith while balancing other extracurricular activities. Other student religious groups, such as the Protestant Student Association (PSA), also host activities to develop one’s spirituality, like a Noon Day Prayer Service every Wednesday and a weekly Spiritual Formation group.

The Greek and Athlete Christian Fellowship, however, does not cater to a specific denomination, unlike the PSA and the Catholic Community at Tufts. The group includes students of varying denominations, both Christian and non-Christian, according to Gage.

“We try to respect that and really be open to their questions and their perspectives on things,” she said.

As of now, the group is entirely student-run, although they will receive direction and guidance from University Chaplain Gregory McGonigle.

“The other chaplains and I are meeting with and supporting them as they go through this exploratory process,” McGonigle said.

Although the group was originally created with athletes and Greek life in mind, any student interested is welcome to attend meetings. According to Barker, few of the group’s members are exploring religious life elsewhere.

“I would say most of the people in the group are not otherwise involved in religious life,” she said.

Senior Jeremy Ho said that the Greek and Athlete Christian Fellowship aims to provide a tight-knit and welcoming environment that he believes other religious groups might lack.

“Comfort-zone wise, this is just going to a room to talk to other people,” Ho said. “Sometimes it may be a bit uncomfortable to jump into a huge group where you don’t really know a ton of people or you’re unfamiliar with the customs.”

Many members already knew each other because of involvement on sports teams and within Greek life, so the group has maintained a fairly small membership.

“There’s been a consistent number of anywhere from five to 10 people who come in a given week,”Barker said.

Although it started out last spring as a Bible study, the group has hopes to expand its programming endeavors in the future.

“We ... have been starting to have more social and community-building events this semester,” Gladstone said.

The group recently hosted a brunch for its members and hopes to include community service activities in the future, according Gage. Most likely, Gladstone said, these activities will occur alongside other student groups.

Meetings are currently held on a biweekly basis on Fridays and Sundays in Eaton Hall. At each meeting, the group discusses a Biblical passage of choice, according to Gage. The same topics are discussed at both meetings, although students are welcome to attend both.

“We have a number of questions that we usually prepare ahead of time,” Gage said.

Barker pointed out that the group has gotten closer through these discussions.

“As it continues, it’s clear that people get to know each other better,” she said. “It’s been really great to see the discussions be a little more personal, and people feel like they can ask questions because they know everyone else there.”

Gage said that questions only serve as a general guideline for discussion since members also address faith-related questions that they can translate to their Greek and athletic communities.

“People just talk about the passage, whatever catches their eye, and we go from there,” Gage said. “It’s nice to be like, ‘I don’t really know, but we can talk about it.’”

Gladstone noted that the goal of these discussions is to foster a new community on campus.

“We come from our own individual communities but we’re trying to build one together,” she said.

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