Christians at Cornell and across the world this month observe the season of Lent — a religious tradition that calls upon adherents to re-embrace their faith through commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the Judean Desert following His baptism. Lent is a solemn season, and an important time for Christians to examine their own religiosity and the state of the church more broadly. This Lent, at least at a glance, the church appears troubled and on the defensive. The unfortunate truth is that Christian churches, like most religious institutions in the United States, have been a diminishing feature of public life for some time. The Pew Research Center notes that 20 percent of Americans are “religiously unaffiliated,” a number that has increased by five percent over the last five years.
After sitting for my senior portrait, each step I took as I emerged from Willard Straight felt suddenly significant — as though each was one closer to my youth’s looming end. I felt an unfamiliar urge for quiet contemplation and reflection. Sage Chapel seemed to beckon, so I obliged. The pilgrimage to Sage quickly became a part of my routine; five daily minutes in a sanctuary with a Bible seems to keep me spiritually satiated. I don’t consider myself religious, but I do, however, find solace in the words of radicals — people who dare to challenge the status quo and evangelize our collective imagination.
Sage Chapel is giving students a chance for Sunday afternoon study break to offer more than coffee and the noise of Libe Café; its new interfaith services at 4 p.m. fuse spirituality and intellect, tranquility and questioning, silent reflection and musical performance.
Rev. Kenneth Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Works, and Janet Shortall, assistant director of Cornell United Religious Works, have led a committee with an innovative approach to spirituality that aims to speak to students’ interests and concerns.