“You have a halal microwave!” exclaimed one of our incoming Muslim students, during an orientation tour of campus. “You are awesome!”
She had not expected this level of accommodation, courtesy of the Emmanuel College Student Society (ECSS). Others were grateful to learn Emmanuel College has both a Buddhist mediation room and a Muslim prayer space, complete with ablution stations for women and men. To some, these things represent more than a welcome—they are signs that students are both seen and heard. Interreligious community is more than an aspiration at Emmanuel; more and more, it is an embodied, lived reality.
Theological education wrestles with big questions: about the existence of God, the provenance of evil, why people suffer and how to confront injustice, to just name a few. But theological education also pays attention to the little things in our religious and spiritual practices, tending to issues that seem minute and yet are essential to the well-being of individuals and their communities. One thing without the other would greatly diminish the educational effectiveness of what we learn about ourselves, our world, and the ultimate source of all life and meaning.
That microwave spoke volumes about what our school tries to do. I would like to applaud the work of the ECSS in this regard. It shows that leadership does not only come from the administration, faculty and staff, but from the students, too! What we do at Emmanuel is about cultivating learners and seekers in finding their vocations, their roles in religious communities and their leadership in the wider world. This high calling is only sustained at the ground level, however, by the ways we meet different needs with religious sensitivity.
I am sure there will be a few little bumps or challenges this year, but I am grateful to say that we have started well. May this halal microwave—and all the little ways we make Emmanuel a welcoming place for people of varying religious traditions, physical and mental abilities, and sexual and gender identities—be a good reminder for our lofty work of teaching and learning together!
—Principal HyeRan Kim-Cragg