A question frequently received from many prospective and new parents is about religious life at Exeter. I often like to tell them that although New England is a predominantly Christian area, Exeter has religious groups for many different faiths. Different groups and services include Exeter Jewish Community (EJC), Christian Fellowship, Catholic Exonians, Indaba, Jummah Prayers, Protestant Worship, Hindu Society, and Buddhist Meditation.
All the clubs are advised by an adult on campus, often a religious leader. Almost all of the religious groups on campus have dedicated meeting spaces located throughout Phillips Church. There is a room for Buddhist Meditation, Hindu Puja, and Jummah Prayers. There is even a kosher kitchen in the basement of Phillips Church and an Ark on the main level for storing the two Torah’s.
One of the best things about the Church is Reverend Thompson who presides over it. He is one of the most accepting and welcoming figures on campus. When you see Rev, feel free to introduce yourself and give him a hug. His hugs are famous on campus.
One of the religious offerings, which is unique to Exeter, is Indaba. Indaba comes from Zulu and means business or matter. It is group which meets to reflect and initiate conversation amongst Exonians. Indaba’s motto is Open Heart, Open Mic, Open Mind. It is not religious affiliated, but provides a time for many students to reflect upon their week and serves as a break from Exeter life.
No matter your faith, all of the religious clubs and services warmly welcome all members of the Exeter Community – faculty, students, alumni, and even parents when they are on campus.
Many popular events throughout the year are held by religious organizations: Holi, the 2 Passover Seder Dinners, and Easter Dinner are some examples. Clubs will sometimes even collaborate with the dinning halls to bring a holiday to the entire campus.
Most religious groups meet on a weekly basis here. I encourage everyone to attend various religious clubs, regardless of their denomination. It is always a positive thing to learn about other religious practices to help strengthen your own. It helps, too, that all four year students are required to take two terms of religion, so students sometimes go to clubs to learn about various religious practices from people of that faith. When new students arrive here in the fall, I recommend that they go to some different groups. Even if you don’t continue attending throughout the year, going those first few weeks will help you make friends and feel more apart of the Exeter Community.
I want to address the parents of new, prospective, and even current, Exonians. Please be comfortable with letting your children explore other religions. It is a great way to make friends on campus and feel more comfortable within Exeter. Do not be worried if they tell you that they are regularly attending a group that isn’t the religion your family practices. Many students strengthen their own religious experiences by attending services of other faiths. For those of you who raised your children a certain faith, your students can find services on and around the campus. Exeter has a multitude of churches with different denominations. Feel free to explore the surrounding community, not just the offerings on campus. But if your child chooses not to go to services for a bit, learn to accept that. They are growing into their own person during their Exeter years. That doesn’t mean they aren’t your child, it just means they are establishing ideals for themselves.
I hope all who read this find some way to get involved with religion at Exeter because it really is a worthwhile experience. And when you get on campus in the fall, look for all the religious groups both at club night and in the church. Many groups will resume meeting right when school starts again as religious holidays are always happening, including the High Holy days occurring almost simultaneously as the start of school.