Trinity University is home to over 2,000 undergraduate students from all over the world that come from a wide variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. Students wishing to maintain or explore religions have many options through both the university, and around the city of San Antonio.
Trinity’s web page on spiritual life explains that “the mission of the chaplaincy is to lead those who follow Christ, to support those of every faith, and to serve all who call Trinity home.”
Reverend Stephen Nickle, university chaplain and sixteen-year member of the Trinity community, wholeheartedly agrees.
“Of course, I know my own tradition, Christianity, best and I can’t be Imam to the Muslims, I can’t be Rabbi to the Jewish students, [and so forth] but I can help out. I can encourage leaders in those groups to do planning, to be thinking about programming they want to do, to help find resources to make different things happen,” Nickel said.
There are a number of places in San Antonio available for worship of different faiths, Nickle points out.
“There’s Temple Bethel, that’s just a couple blocks away. There’s a Hindu temple up towards Austin. In this University Presbyterian Church, here on the corner of
Bushnell and Shook, [there is] an educational initiative called the Source of Light Center, the SOUL center, and they’ll frequently do interfaith kinds of things, and the Mennonite Church [of San Antonio] down St. Mary’s has a Peace Center there and that organization does a lot of interfaith kinds of things. There is also the Sikh Research Center.”
So, what does Trinity do to help students of other faiths practice their beliefs?
“Some logistical kinds of things,” says Nickle. “We have an interfaith prayer space right here in Parker Chapel. It mostly has been used by Muslim Student Association for congregational prayer on Fridays but also some other groups and just individuals will come and hang out there as well.”
Senior Sarah Friedlander, a member of the Jewish Student Association (JSA), appreciates Trinity’s support of their organization.
“We have a lot of support from Dean Tuttle and Aramark, especially during Passover, which is the holiday that you can’t eat anything with gluten or flour that’s risen, and it lasts eight days,” Friedlander said. “I think they have been working with the president of the JSA to kind of meal-plan for that week, and they are also really supportive in figuring out how to make the traditional Jewish foods that they serve at the Seder. So I do feel like we have a lot of support from the University.”
Nickle assures that he does his best to make all students feel included, even in predominantly Christian environments.
“I am a voice at university-wide gatherings: opening convocation, graduation, commencement””things like that. I try and nurture a hospitality to all perspectives, so I will lead prayers that I think are accessible to multiple religious traditions. We’ve got the rich pluralism at Trinity that you see in the broader culture, and that’s a huge asset.”
Similarly, InterVarsity, an on campus Christian organization, seeks to include anyone interested in exploring a different faith, even if they do not necessarily share the same beliefs as the organization.
“Anybody is welcome in InterVarsity, even if they’re not Christian,” said senior, Nancy Li. “We love for people of other faiths to come and hear what they have to say about things. We also like to do things that involve food, fun, and community.”
The reverend also has an important message for the LGBTQ community of Trinity University.
“Trinity University does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, and so in a sense it’s saying that’s a non-issue and in another sense it’s saying “˜It is an issue culturally and we stand with you.’ So there’s a solidarity there, and I am in a very similar place. I’m not sure I see sexual orientation as a central tenet of faithful response to God.”
Anybody who is interested in learning more about places of worship in San Antonio can visit the
“spiritual life” web page in the Trinity website. For religious student organizations, visit the “Student Organizations” page in Trinity’s site to find a link to the complete list of student organizations as of 2015.