Chaplains’ Interfaith Service Team

“I was asked questions about my own beliefs and backgrounds that encouraged me to delve deeper and really explain where and why I have established my system of values.”

Destination: Tuscaloosa, AL

Trip Organizers: Chaplain Rick Spalding ([email protected]) & Nancy Luczynski ([email protected])

The Experience

The Chaplains’ Office assembled as religiously/spiritually diverse a group of students as possible to spend a week in Tuscaloosa building and rebuilding in areas that were devastated by the 2011 tornado.  This trip, now in its sixth year, aims to enable everyone to explore common values and discuss differences of worldview while sharing the work of humanitarian service and experiencing religious/spiritual diversity.  The volunteers worked closely with Habitat for Humanity to help construct a “safe room” to protect inhabitants of a new home from future tornadoes, and rehabilitated two homes in the area to create safe living conditions. By visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, the volunteers were able to engage with meta-questions of race, privilege, and social justice. The students had nightly lessons with the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, and Protestant Christian chaplains, promoting education about the religious traditions of others. The group also visited four different houses of worship over the course of the week, promoting spiritual well-being.

Participant Quotes

  • “I learned a lot about the different faith and non faith practices we were exposed to. I also connected at a deep and personal level with many of my peers.”
  • “I now approach religion as much more metaphorical than I did in the past, and I think I have a better understanding of how personal it is.”
  • “I have a deeper understanding of the individual and complex nature that religion can take on and how I can incorporate parts of that into my own life as a non-religious person.”
  • “I understood before the trip that de facto segregation and race-based poverty existed especially in the south, but being physically in Tuscaloosa transformed my understanding of racism in the U.S.”