In its second year of operation, the Center for Peace and Spirituality has hit the ground running with media expansion, a successful forum and confirmed plans to bring renowned activist Sister Simone Campbell to campus in April.
Rev. Chuck Currie is in his first year as the director for the center and has already brought changes to the table including the addition of a Facebook page and a twitter page.
“What’s really exciting about our Facebook page is that the biggest group of visitors are 18-21 year olds, meaning they are students here,” he said. “Hitting social media is a huge part of growing the center and getting people to know who we are.”
Part of targeting social media was an outreach to students and community members to participate in International Peace Day Sept. 22.
The Facebook and twitter pages asked visitors to tweet or comment about their prayers and wishes concerning peace in the world.
Currie said there was a significant response, and several students from the Pacific Christian Fellowship painted the spirit bench with their wishes for peace throughout several countries.
In addition to the response to International Peace Day, the Center for Peace and Spirituality held a forum called Ferguson to Forest Grove, where issues of racism and law enforcement were discussed.
The forum featured a panel of the Forest Grove Chief of Police, several civil rights activists from Portland, faculty and a student.
Currie said it was a great first step in facilitating discussions about race. One of his main focuses this year is to continue that discussion.
“The problem with racial discussions is that they pop up every few years when an incident in the media catches fire but people stop talking as the fire dies down,” he said. “We need to keep the discussion going here at Pacific.”
To help add perspective to these discussions, Currie met with a professor from Harvard University who dealt with similar discussions on her campus to discuss options to continue the race topic at Pacific.
He said the center also plans to have an event on the morning of Martin Luther King Day Jan. 19 to remember the past and look toward the future of the civil rights movement.
“The important thing to remember with civil rights is that we can’t just remember the past,” he said. “We need to also look to the future and talk about what we are going to do next because it is not even close to being solved.”
Currie said a major shift he wants to make with the center is focusing on bringing speakers who are currently making social differences rather than bringing social activists from the past.
Following with this idea, the Center for Peace and Spirituality is bringing Executive Director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, and the leader of the cross-country Nun’s on the Bus Simone Campbell in the spring.
Being the leader of Nuns on the Bus, Campbell traveled from state to state focusing on comprehensive immigration reform. She has also appeared on 60 minutes, the Colbert Report and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
While the center is still in its early growing stages, Currie sees it as having a very large place on campus in the future.
Along with this substantial place on campus, Currie wants to bring an interfaith worship center to campus, where students of all faiths and religious traditions can have a place to worship.
While it is a long-term goal, Currie said it has already sparked interest in the conversations he has had with several faculty on campus.
Currie admitted that one of the centers weaker points that needs a lot of work is student involvement. He said that in the future, the center plans to implement student forums to help get the student body more involved.
For students interested in becoming involved with the Center for Peace and Spirituality, Currie said he deeply encourages students to approach him with ideas and dreams for the center and emphasized that, while he is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, he has a respect for all religions and beliefs.