Students, clergy meet to compare respective faiths

Abbey Stirgwolt

Communion. Last rites. Baptism. Sacraments.

This mix of Protestant and Catholic terminology served as a discussion source for representatives from both faiths as students and clergy met yesterday in the Student Center to compare the traditions and practices of their respective religions.

The dialogue was moderated by Shawn Travis, a United Christian Ministries intern and Kent State graduate student, and Father John Jerek, pastor of the Newman Center and director of Catholic Campus Ministries.

Questions that had been previously brainstormed by students from United Christian Ministries and the Catholic Student Association provided the topics of discussion for the 12 people who attended.

Issues ranged from church bureaucracy and women’s roles in the church to sacraments and baptism. In general, representatives from both sides were able to find interfaith connections dealing with each topic.

“What is the role of women in Protestant clergy and worship?” was one question on the CSA students’ list for UCM. On this and many of the other issues, answers for the Protestant side varied with denomination.

“That’s not much of a problem in the Methodist church,” Travis said. He said most Methodist churches have female clergy members.

In turn, UCM students expressed interest in the Catholic practice of confession.

“If you really want to know what we believe about some of these things, listen to the prayers being said,” Jerek said.

“(Confession is) meant to be a spiritual exercise or examination of our conscience. It’s not just a going through the motions’ kind of thing.”

Discussions about the Christian practice of baptism led to the topic of last rites and anointing of the sick. Lauren O’Dell-Scott, director of UCM, related her experiences as a hospital chaplain. She said she often witnesses the comforting effect annointment by priests has on sick patients and their families.

Though various contrasting traditions and historical differences were discussed, both sides agreed that development and progression of faith is a continual process.

“We all come to the table with a very imperfect history,” Jerek said.

Both Jerek and O’Dell-Scott cited examples of theologians from the Protestant and Catholic faiths, respectively, whom they had studied.

“There’s not just one understanding (of scripture),” O’Dell-Scott said. “We can always be inspired by it … It’s a Word that will continually be fresh.”

Contact religion reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].