Students unify through faith community groups

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After perceiving loneliness on campus, Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Office staff members David Boyd and Cindy Sturgeon established a medium to unify students called Faith Community Groups last semester.

The community groups are student-led and are based on special interests, according to the community group Google Form. While these groups hold weekly meetings, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs’ website says the goal of the groups are for students to build relationships and participate in activities outside of meetings. Boyd, assistant director of the Lantz Center for Christian Vocation, said he believes establishing a sense of community creates a positive difference in students’ lives.

“I’ve been out of college probably 20 years and I still get together with my college friends,” Boyd said. “Because of our four years together, we became life-long friends. That’s what I hope to build for students here at UIndy.”

Boyd said he manages the groups and acts as a mentor to the group leaders. According to Boyd, group leaders have the responsibility to engage their members.

“When I spoke recently to one of my group leaders, I told them that our job as community leaders is to take a wallflower off the wall,” Boyd said. “We put these wallflowers in a big bouquet in the center of the room.”

Photo by Madison Gomez In McCleary Chapel, sophomore psychology, pre-occupational therapy double major and student faith group leader Julia Swindeman, starts a discussion over various topics that anyone in the group is able to contribute to. A core aspect of the group includes journaling.

One of the group leaders is sophomore exercise science major Caroline Kavanaugh. 

She said she leads a new group this semester called Fitness Together. The group meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. At these meetings, members pray, workout and read a devotional written by a runner. Kavanaugh said she did not intend to lead a group this semester until she was approached by Boyd. 

“[Boyd] walked outside of his office and he was like, ‘Hey guys, I have an idea for a community group, but I need somebody to lead it,’” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said the group has the end-goal of participating in an April Fool’s Day-themed 5K marathon in Seymour, Ind.

“It’s for anybody of any athletic ability,” Kavanaugh said. “You don’t have to be a super quick runner or anything like that, because I’m definitely not.”

Another group offered both this and last semester is Journaling. According to the group co-leader, sophomore psychology and pre-Occupational Therapy double major Julia Swindeman, the group meets Thursdays at 5 p.m. where members reflect on their past week through journaling. Swindeman said students interested in attending service at McCleary Chapel could join a community group as an opportunity to not attend service alone. However, chapel attendance is not required to join any group, she said. After leading small groups in high school, Swindeman said she has felt a passion for bringing people on campus together.

“I  know a lot of freshmen especially feel really lonely and isolated,” Swindeman said. “I’ve always wanted to do my best to make other people not feel like that. I know I felt like that last year.”

Having led a group for business majors last semester, junior operations and supply-chain management major Collin Fausnaugh said he is leading a new group this semester. Members of the Hearing and Discerning God community group spend time in and outside of their meetings discussing their recent prayers and life events in conjunction with faith, Fausnaugh said. He said he enjoys his position for the fact that he and the other members can come to a mutual understanding of one another.

“I feel like I am constantly learning from [other members],” Fausnaugh said. “It is not necessarily a one-way type of thing… we can work together to figure out what we actually believe in collectively.”

Boyd said that room is still available for students interested in joining any group and that more information about the groups that are offered can be found by visiting the Lantz Center.

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