The event began with the announcement of winners for the White House Challenge Video/Essay Contest. Four students were awarded cash prizes for their exceptional essays about being “men and women for others” and pursuing interfaith service. The video component of the contest was extended into the spring semester. The winners of the Video/Essay Contest will be featured on the official White House Challenge website this spring.
Next, leaders from the Student Interfaith Council reflected on their vision to make Georgetown an institutional model for interfaith dialogue and cooperation. They provided examples of inter-religious activities this semester including an Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service and an Interfaith Learning Swap which brought Hoyas of diverse faith and non-faith traditions together in unique ways. In addition, this semester the Council pioneered Faith in Conversation, a student-directed interfaith dialogue program.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the main discussion centered on being grateful, and how we can give thanks through faith and action. Rev. Bryant Oskvig, Director of the Georgetown Protestant Chaplaincy, facilitated the discussion. Other staff from the President’s Office, Campus Ministry, Center for Social Justice, Teaching, and Research, Residential Life, and the Berkley Center attended. Students represented the Interfaith Council, Orthodox Christian Fellowship, GU Lecture Fund, Catholic Daughters, Center for Social Justice, Muslim Student’s Association, Berkley Center, and President’s Office.
Rev. Oskvig encouraged the attendees to split into four smaller groups, each with student, faculty, and staff members, to discuss various aspects of being grateful. He began with the statement, “I am grateful to be here,” and provided each group with discussion questions such as: “What does being grateful mean?” “Does gratitude involve responsibilities?” “What does here mean?”
After each question, each small group shared their ideas with the rest of the groups. Several students commented that gratitude can have many forms, and the importance of helping others out of responsibility or gratitude, rather than guilt. Another student mentioned his own faith tradition’s view of service, saying that “God created people equal, but he didn’t give everyone equal gifts. Therefore, each person should use his or her unique gifts to benefit others.”
Rev. Oskvig ended the discussion with one of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, and he encouraged participants to reflect on their own feelings of gratitude over the past month. He challenged all to examine their lives more closely, and continue to express their gratitude through faith and action.