The Relevant Series: Interfaith Collaboration and Community

WRITTEN BY: Julia Bartel, Discipleship Group Leader for Power to Change

Photos by: Graham Hynds (first picture) and Benjamin Ng (all other pictures)

Two students holding a sign that says "Are all religions basically the same?"

Power to Change is a Christian group on campus. With weekly meetings, small groups, and socials, and we aim to create a warm and inclusive community while fostering interfaith relationships and creating a space where people can discuss the role faith plays in their life. We also focus on reaching out to the campus through international student events and collaborative events with other clubs.

This January, Power to Change joined together with other faith clubs across U of T to have the second annual Relevant Series. The week was the culmination of months of planning and collaboration with Agape Impact, Chinese Christian Fellowship, the Secular Alliance, Athletes in Action, and several other campus groups.

The series, from January 16-20, was meant to address pressing life questions that students at a world-class school like U of T might have – questions such as “does religion poison everything?”, “has science buried God?”, and “is Christianity irrational?”. Though the questions were answered from a Christian worldview, skeptics and seekers of all backgrounds were invited to bring their strongest opinions and rebuttals. In fact, the most popular events were the interfaith dialogues – “Who is God?: A Dialogue between a Muslim and a Christian” as well as “Is Christianity Irrational?”, a dialogue between Christian author Andy Bannister and U of T’s own Ronald de Sousa, an atheist. That event, hosted in part by the Secular Alliance, was my favourite event of the week.

Three to four talks and panels, with speakers from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, took place at Wycliffe College each day, with free snacks or lunches for those attending. While these were happening, students from the different faith clubs joined together to reach out to the campus, putting out posters and flyers as well as doing surveys. Although it is somewhat taboo in Canadian culture to speak freely about religion (being that we don’t want to offend anyone), the huge number of people who came to the week’s events revealed that people really do want to discuss their beliefs. As a leader with Power to Change, it was a joy to meet and dialogue with students across the campus who wanted to talk about their beliefs and about how they answer life’s biggest questions.

Most of all, despite differences in beliefs among the clubs sponsoring or taking part in the Relevant Series, it was amazing to see us united and in community together, bridging differences in order to establish friendships and speak truly about our lives to one another. I participated in the first Relevant series in 2015 and am thankful still for the great friendships in my life that were born that week – a result of collaborating with different groups and talking to people who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. As the series continues in coming years, I’m excited to see the effects it will have across the campus.

The Relevant Series will take place again next January. I hope to see you there! If you’re a student leader in a faith club and want to collaborate with Power to Change for next year’s Relevant Series, let us know what your ideas are – email uoft@p2c.com.

Two students offering donuts beside a sign that says "Question 4 A Donut" Two students A person giving a talk at an event People sitting in seats watching someone give a talk A sign that says "Relevant"

Julia Bartel

Discipleship Group Leader, Power to Change

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