The Center of Spirituality and Sustainability will celebrate World Religion Day with a focus on readings of spiritually significant texts and scriptures from various religions.
The event is part of a larger series of events celebrating spirituality called “Soul Sundays,” which take place weekly at the Fuller Dome. They aim to stand as a free-form gathering where attendants are invited to share texts that are spiritually significant to them. They were originally started by Edwardsville Unity, a local organization that aims to foster unity in the Edwardsville area.
Tovia Black, the manager of the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, stated that Soul Sundays are meant to be a time for spiritual sustenance.
“Soul Sunday is a chance for people to get to know the most common connecting points of the different religions, the points that revolve around kindness and compassion and basic goodness,” Black said.
World Religion Day is a holiday that occurs on the third Sunday of January each year. It was created by members of the Bahá’í faith. Jamal McLaughlin, a founding member of Edwardsville Unity, is a member of the Bahá’í faith.
“The goal is really simple. Not to convince anyone to choose a different religion, but to acknowledge that they all have a lot in common and that it’s something to celebrate,” McLaughlin said.
Alvin Deibert, a volunteer at the Fuller Dome, is a former board member and still enjoys participating in Soul Sundays, despite pandemic-related restrictions and a smaller number of participants.
“We just started out and then this darn [COVID-19] thing comes. One has to be very cautious in making contacts,” Deibert said. “We’re hoping if this would ever pass we can begin to get more students from the campus involved and hopefully students of various religious traditions will come in.”
Roger Lutley, a member of the local Bahá’í community, said that there are a variety of ways for guests to participate spiritually, known as “Devotions.”
“Devotions could be considered prayers, people may come with prayers, or may come with certain readings they’ve come across that may be inspiring to them,” Lutley said. “Poems, poetry of some kind of a spiritual nature are often offered. If people are musically inclined, we’ve had some people that have been able to sing.”
World Religion Day and the Soul Sundays are inclusive to those of any religious background, including those who are atheist or agnostic.
“We have people who have no real religious affiliation, but they have spiritual aspects of life, so they bring spiritual things to read,” Deibert said. “Atheists would be welcome too. I don’t know what they would share with us, but there are some wonderful humanistic writings and they could be shared too, even though they’re not religious.”
The event is loosely themed around the concept of the “Golden Rule,” and how it’s found in many world religions.
“There will be different readings and prayers that kind of highlight that oneness, that shared belief of treating each other well,” McLaughlin said.
The event will occur on Sunday, Jan. 16th from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Attendance will be limited to 30 people to comply with SIUE’s pandemic guidelines. Future Soul Sundays will occur weekly from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.