Brown Spirit: Introduction

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Welcome to the conversation about religion and spirituality at Brown! Religion is a key facet of the identity of many students on campus. Supporting a vast array of religious groups and promoting various inter-faith activities, Brown offers plenty of opportunities to both nurture your own faith and to understand the faith of others.  Come join Mitch Akutsu in his column Brown Spirit to be immersed in the soul of Brown.

Hey all! I’m Mitch Akutsu! While I would definitely say that Brown has become a home to me, I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I’m a junior concentrating in Geo-Bio (the biology track within the geology department, weird, huh?). Right now, I’m taking Limnology (the study of lakes!), Plant Organism, Community Ecology, and, because I love writing, Fiction I. I’m also a part of Brown Lion Dance, a traditional Chinese dance group, Brown EMS, and the men’s club volleyball team here. In my free time, however, I devote a lot of time in the religious sphere at Brown. It all started Freshman year when I met with Janet Cooper Nelson, the University Chaplain, for some basic advising for classes. However, that conversation went well past simply discussing classes I wanted to take. It became the first of many riveting, deep, and intellectual conversations on religion and spirituality I have had at Brown.

Growing up in a small, tight-knit religious community, I had a lot of support when I was confronted with big questions like “Does God exist?”, “What does faith mean?”, and “What is the relationship between science and religion?” However, the people I grew up around generally had similar answers for these questions, leaving little room for me to figure out what I actually believe. Coming to Brown was the first step in a wonderful religious and spiritual journey in trying to figure out these questions for myself. However, religion at Brown isn’t just about answering tough questions, it’s also about community and growing together with fellow classmates. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of support and love I have felt from various religious groups on campus, as well as the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.

So, as this is my first post, let me just try to start to give you a sense of what religious and spiritual life is like at Brown.

There are various Christian groups on campus that can accommodate the schedules and preferences of any Christian student on campus. For example, there is Athletes in Action, which is open to all, but expect the message at their weekly large group gathering to be most relatable to those who play sports. There is an active Catholic community on campus that is integrated with the Catholic community of Providence, giving anyone a chance to practice their own faith as well as participate in outreach and social justice. There are a great many other beautiful and active ministries going on. To check them all out, they are listed on the Chaplain’s Office website.

An essential part to Christianity is studying the Bible. Every group has at least one weekly Bible study group. If you have an interest in reading the Bible, you will definitely find a great group of people to study it with. Some groups, like Brown Christian Fellowship (BCF), hold Bible studies specifically for those who do not come from a Christian background, which I find really neat. I actually participate in this Bible study group 🙂

On campus, we also have the Brown-RISD Hillel. The Hillel is a beautiful building and the center of Jewish activities on campus. It hosts groups that support Jewish practice as well as a number of other activities that can get the whole campus involved.

There are active student groups for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’i Faith, and plenty of others. If you already come from a religious community, or if you are looking for one, you will be sure to find a place where you can feel completely open and free. If you have trouble at first, the Chaplain’s office has plenty of people that would love to help you out!

For those who aren’t necessarily looking to find a religion to practice, I would say that spiritual pursuits are going on all over campus. Of course there is the religious studies department that puts an academic lens on religion, but there are also plenty of philosophy, history, and, from my experience, urban studies, classes that spark conversation about spirituality outside of a religious context.

I look forward to showing you more about religious and spiritual life at Brown in the future!

Thanks for reading! Am I not covering something that you want to hear about in my posts? Have any questions at all about religion, spiritual life, or Brown in general? Feel free to shoot me an email at Takamichi_Akutsu@brown.edu with any of your questions or comments!

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