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Still Vital to our Life as a College

Update by Pastor Richard Priggie ’74, College Chaplain

Augustana's Five Faith Commitments is a formal statement that took a year to develop and discuss at all levels of the college before being adopted by the Board of Trustees in May 2005. Shortly thereafter, it was praised by the Rev. Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as a model for other colleges to use in defining their relationship with the wider church.

When initially charged with finding a way to define more clearly the nature and meaning of being a church-related college, the Campus Ministry Committee decided it would be appropriate if the docu-ment was closely tied to five core values of the Augustana Synod: encouragement of personal piety; commitment to higher education; practice of servant leadership; pursuit of ecumenism; and engagement in world missions. In the end, those five values determined more than a century ago provided an ideal framework for constructing a document so relevant today.

I'm proud to report that since its adoption, the Five Faith Commitments have not sat on a shelf gathering dust. They are given to and talked through by President Steve Bahls with all prospective faculty and administrators. They are talked about at a variety of places in the life of the college and also provide direction for campus programming.

Two examples stand out in my mind: 

The first faith commitment states "Augustana offers every student the opportunity to develop a life-shaping spirituality." Taken together with the fourth commitment, which encour-ages collegial dialogue among people of different faiths and cultures, this has led to significant interfaith conversation and action in the past few years. An Interfaith Understanding Group was formed in 2007; this group of students, faculty and staff meets periodically to discuss matters of faith. Faculty advisors to our Jewish and Muslim students were identified, and these groups of students also meet regularly. The Inter-faith Group successfully advocated for a prayer room on campus for Muslim students, for dietary offerings in the dining hall appropriate to festival times, and for interfaith readings and prayers at the baccalaureate service for seniors and their families. Truly we are living out our commitment to invite every student to grow and mature spiritually.

At the same time, the third faith commitment dovetailed nicely with the new Augustana Center for Vocational Reflection (CVR). This commitment emphasizes the importance of guiding our students in developing a sense of vocation, including ways to test their sense of calling. The CVR has engendered a culture of reflection on campus, which presses students to reflect upon how their classes, service activities and internships impact their sense of who they are as indi-viduals and how they are being called to use their gifts and talents to make a difference in the world.

These are just two of the many ways in which the Five Faith Commitments shape our life as a college. They stand to remain fresh, challenging and life-giving for Augustana as we remain true to our roots in the Lutheran Christian tradition in our sesquicentennial year and beyond.