By Esther Elliott
Spiritual Formation Opportunities (SFOs) have been greatly affected by COVID-19, just like the rest of campus. Students who have attended Malone in the past couple of years have seen the changing SFO protocols, including times when SFOs were optional.
Since the school year began in fall 2021, the Office of Spiritual Formation (OSF) has reinstated SFO requirements for students, and as of spring 2022, the required SFO attendance is back to its original 15 per semester. With the return of required regular attendance, the OSF is making sure that the student body is heard and represented in the SFO offerings.
OSF officials are working with students and faculty to form more discussion-based groups where students can openly share issues they care about, including topics relating to social justice, the LGBTQ+ community and mental health awareness.
The Office of Multicultural Services (OMS) is holding a weekly, month-long SFO in honor of Black History Month called “A Different World: Unity For All” in February. It will be led by Andrea Ramsey, newly instated director of the OMS, along with Windy Singo, sophomore political science major, who came up with the idea.
“[Our SFO is] an interactive discussion about ideas that affect African-American students,” Ramsey said. “We’ll view episodes of the 1980 sitcom “A Different World,” which is based on true events that occurred at a historically black college.”
This SFO will follow episode screenings with discussions of topics that are relevant to today’s college students. The conversations will be mediated with the aim of bringing a better understanding of the experiences of students of color in order to foster unity among students.
“A Different World: Unity for All” will meet on Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28 in the Silk Auditorium in Mitchell Hall. The story shown is fictional, but the mistreatment of people of color and of their cultures has happened and still happens today.
Kristen Hankins, student director of the OMS and senior business administration major, is bringing back “Nothing Personal,” a life group she started last semester. The SFO originally featured co-director Faith Benson-Ludle, a senior primary childhood education major, but unfortunately, Benson-Ludle won’t be able to re-join Hankins this year.
This life group is a place to have conversations about being a person of color in a predominantly white institution. Some of the topics include language differences, the use of different dialects, Christian ideology and the differences between Africans and African-Americans. Hankins will be starting toward the end of February.
Other SFOs making their return in spring 2022 include “Bless Up” and “Be: Justice.” “Bless Up” is led by Rachel Hunka and other members of 3rd Street Community Church.
“Be: Justice” met for the first time Friday, Jan. 28. Dr. Elizabeth Patterson Roe, social work professor and director of the Center for Intercultural Studies, led a discussion on urban ministries for the first meeting.
“[Being Christian in the world is] about loving God first, and loving your neighbor second,” Patterson Roe said. “It’s about loving not just those closest to us, but those who are different from us.”
“Be: Justice” occurs once a month on a Friday morning. Students can access the OSF’s complete SFO calendar on their Malone Gmail account.
The next “Be: Justice” in February will discuss Christianity from the perspectives of people of color. In March, it will cover perspectives from Christians with same-sex attractions, and the following one in April will relate to Earth Day.
“I Can Relate” is an SFO that meets on different Tuesdays every month at 10:30 a.m. It covers topics related to singleness, dating and LGBTQ+ relationships.
“[“I Can Relate” is about] covering the broad idea of relationships from a biblical standpoint,” Linda Leon, the director of the OSF, said.
“I Can Relate” met most recently on Tuesday, Feb. 1. It was led by Dr. Christina Schnyders, director of graduate counseling programs, and Dr. Steve Jensen, chair of the English department. They discussed ways students can better respect members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Leon is especially looking forward to “Bless Up” and “Be: Justice.” She’s personally learned so much from the speakers sharing their experiences.
There are dozens of other SFOs taking place this semester, and the OSF has been working hard to make sure that there is no shortage of interesting opportunities offered. Their goal is that each student looks forward to fulfilling their required 15 attendances.
The SFO Google calendar is available to every Malone student logged into their Malone Gmail account, which makes it that much easier to see which SFOs they are able to attend. Leon and the rest of the Office of Spiritual Formation look forward to seeing you at the next SFO!