New Interfaith Book Club encourages empathy and curiosity

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The Interfaith Book Club meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Farinon. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Friedman ’25)

Bernadette Russo, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Whether you practice religion often, sometimes or not at all, the newly established Interfaith Book Club allows students from different religious backgrounds to open their minds to new perspectives.

The Interfaith Book Club is a space that Lafayette students, faculty and staff of all religious identities can join to read and discuss books about various aspects of religious life.

The group had its first meeting on March 22. They discussed ideas from Tyler D. Mayfield’s “Father Abraham’s Many Children: The Bible in a World of Religious Difference,” an introductory book about what it means to practice religious pluralism in a divided religious climate. These meetings are meant to examine the reading at hand and explore how the ideas presented in the book can apply to daily life from different perspectives of religious belief.

Initially, College Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Alex Hendrickson and Interfaith Fellow Lisa Green ‘24 developed the club. Amanda Friedman ‘25 later joined Hendrickson and Green in further planning.

“One of my favorite parts of college has been having conversations where my mind is changed, where I found out new things about myself, my religion and other faith traditions,” Green wrote in an email. “I hope I learn a lot through the book about the intersections of our traditions but also from everyone in the club. I know everyone will have a really cool and fascinating story to tell.” 

According to Hendrickson, the Interfaith Book Club is characteristic of a liberal arts experience, as it teaches students to look beyond their own beliefs.

“Since President Hurd came to campus last summer, she’s really stressed the need to develop intentional community. A group like the Interfaith Book Club is one way to do just that. We want to intentionally get together to talk about how we can shape our lives for good,” Hendrickson wrote in an email.

One of the club’s missions is to bring students together and facilitate a safe environment where complex questions about religion and faith can be explored.

“I think a lot of times, people see religion for how it has divided people historically but my mission and the goal of our club specifically is just the opposite: to unite people to become better versions of themselves through knowledge,” Green wrote.

Hendrickson also believes that entering interfaith communities such as the book club strengthens one’s faith and sense of spirituality.

“I think that Interfaith Dialogue is an important spiritual practice. Whether an individual is religious or not, when they begin to learn about the beliefs and practices of others, they develop empathy and curiosity,” Hendrickson wrote.

The Interfaith Book Club is open to anyone who wants to join. Whether people want to learn more about religion, expand their horizons through discussion or simply love to read, they are welcome.

“I think the main message is basically just that we are open to everyone…Even though it’s amazing to be with people you are similar to, it is also important to engage in dialogue with others,” Friedman wrote in an email. “I think it will be a great experience for anyone who wants a different perspective on something like religion which permeates all of our lives.”

The book club meets every Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Room 221 in the Farinon Student Center. All members will receive the book. Meetings discuss one chapter weekly. 

Those who are interested in joining the book club are encouraged to reach out to Green for further information.