The turnout was small last night at Campus Ministry’s Religious Open Mic, where students were invited to step forward and voice their opinions and views about religion.
A total of 10 students filtered in and out of the forum which began at 5:30 p.m. and ended roughly and hour later. The forum went up against Egan’s Thanksgiving dinner, which may or may not have accounted for the low numbers.
The event seemed mostly targeted at students who did not check a religious affiliation on their college applications.
It was moderated by its organizer, Campus Ministry Assistant Betty Amatangelo, who began by, saying of Campus Ministry “what we can do as a department, as a group of people who are here to serve you, is to give you a place to talk about these things without judgment or condemning or converting.”
The few students who did speak at the podium last night spoke from the heart about their experience with religion.
Senior religious studies Major Jennifer Detchon began with a recitation of a poem that encompassed many of her feelings toward religion.
“There comes a time in our lives, be it past, present or future, when we stop looking at religious practice as a way to simply fit in or stand out,” she said.
She went on to say in the poem that “God is not a being, but being itself.”
Sophomore Amy Bishop spoke next at the podium, and talked about her experience as a freshman and her search for “something more fulfilling” in a religion.
“You have to have that personal connection to what you are doing,” she said. “Mindfulness about who you are and who you want to be.”
Because of the small number of people, to spark discussion, a bowl containing slips of paper was passed around.
Amatangelo encouraged all in attendance to read the statements on their paper and offer their thoughts about the statements and their personal views.
“We want to focus more on our similarities than our differences,” she said.
Towards the end, Mercyhurst Chaplain Father James Piszker commented that, “It’s unfortunate that the hierarchy of the church cannot be here to hear this, because they need to hear it… change doesn’t happen unless they can hear from real people… these kinds of dialogues are an important part of that.”
After the forum closed, Amatangelo noted that she was “very disappointed by the turnout.” Though over 40 students who had not checked a religious affiliation “consistently agreed to attend” that night, none of them showed.
Regarding the students that did attend and offer their thoughts, Amatangelo was pleasantly surprised that though not all associated with an organized religion, there was “still a strong need to connect to a community,” a community that Mercyhurst Campus Ministry hopes to be for them.