Spiritual support, interfaith worship and religious activities are about to occupy a larger, more central space at Penn.
The Office of the Chaplain and the Religious Activities Commons - a space used by religious communities for worshiping and studying - will be moving to Houston Hall, Room 240, this summer. It will take over the former space of the Cultural Center, which has moved to the Arts, Research and Cultural House.
The RAC is currently located in the Graduate Student Center on 36th and Locust Walk, while the Office of the Chaplain is further west on Locust. The move will bring interfaith groups together into one space and bring the chaplaincy “right into the heart of student activity,” University Chaplain Chaz Howard said in an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian.
The move has come about after Programs in Religion, Interfaith, and Spirituality Matters - Penn’s interfaith organization representing approximately 50 religious groups - brought the issue forward to the University Council and Penn administrators.
The change will provide “a great opportunity to take a step closer to students in our effort to journey with them on the most beautiful and most difficult moments in life,” Howard said in a press release. The more central positioning of the offices will enable them “to increase outreach and connect with students for counseling and support,” he explained.
College and Wharton junior Neel Koyawala, co-president of the Hindu Students Council, is excited about the new space as he expects it will bring more interfaith collaboration. Penn’s facilitation of the move “says a lot for the University,” he added.
“It’s our goal to connect,” said Nursing senior Elizabeth Harbuck, Latter-Day Saints Student Association president. She outlined how the new space will have a “centralizing” effect on Penn’s religious groups.
College freshman Sam Murray, director of the Baha’i meditation group, outlined how having a more accessible space will make Penn’s religious groups “way more cohesive.” He hopes RAC and the Chaplain’s Office will become more visible to non-religious students in this more central space.
Administrators have not yet decided what organization will move into the former Chaplain’s Office.