Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Religious diversity at Augustana on the rise

Founded by Swedish Lutheran Settlers in 1860, Augustana has grown to become more religiously and racially diverse throughout time.
According to Mark Salisbury, assistant dean and director of institutional research and assessment, “Augustana used to be much less diverse than it is now. In the 1980s, a good one-third of the student body was Lutheran. By 1995 it was down to 25%. Since then it has dropped steadily.”
Augustana can now boast being the home for students who affiliate with countless different religions.
In fact, according to the college’s history and vision statement, “The College honors its roots and its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. At the same time, Augustana’s rich liberal arts environment is enhanced by diversity.”
This religious diversity is assessed when first-year students begin their collegiate careers at Augustana.
The Class of 2019 Profile, provided by the Office of Admissions, includes information on religious affiliations stated by students during the application process.
According to the profile, the highest reported religion was Catholic, at 29.7 percent, followed by Lutheran (ELCA) at 10.2 percent and Methodist at 4.5 percent.
The list also contains percentages for eight more religions and accounts for those who stated “Other,” “No response/Unknown” or “No religious preference.”
“What has grown considerably is the proportion of students who don’t affiliate with any faith,” Salisbury said. “That number has gone from not something that we even asked about (students could either select “other” or just not respond to the question) 30 years ago. Today, almost 10 percent of freshmen will indicate they are atheist with an additional 15-20 percent indicating that they don’t claim any specific faith affiliation.”
According to Salisbury, the only religious statistics the college has are those which reflect the religious view of the first-year class.
“In terms of the entire student body, it turns out that many of our students’ affiliations change during college and we don’t continue to ask students after they enter as freshmen,” Salisbury said.
In order to accommodate those with religious affiliation, there are four weekly worship sessions at Augustana, which all take place in Ascension Chapel on the second floor of Founders Hall.
The first is “Sunday Morning Worship,” which is held at 10:30 a.m. and is given with the Lutheran perspective in mind. The second is the “Sunday Catholic Mass,” which takes place at 4:00 p.m. and is a full Catholic mass.
On Tuesdays, at 11:30 a.m., there is a “Tuesday Reflection.” This service offers a brief service, followed by a short reflection by speakers from the student body, faculty, administration and staff.
The last service is the “Wednesday Evening Prayer and Holy Communion” which takes place on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. This is seen as a contemplative service that offers peace and Holy Communion to relieve stress during the middle of a busy week.
According to Reverend Richard Priggie, chaplain of the college, the average attendance at each worship session is as follows: 40 at the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday, 50 at the 4:00 p.m. service on Sunday, 20 at the Tuesday morning service, and 60 at the Wednesday night service.
In order to encourage religious diversity and aid students in their religious journey, the Worship Opportunities page on Augustana’s webpage distinctly states, “Persons of all religious backgrounds are welcome at all services.”
In addition to religious services, the college also offers eleven different religious student groups and organizations for all students.
These groups include: Campus Ministries (serves several 100 students throughout the year), Catholic Student Organization (approximately 50 active members), Christians United for Israel (10 members), Damascus Road (approximately 15 active members), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (approximately 35 active members), Harvest Bible Chapel-Augustana Small Group (nine members), Hillel (10 members), Interfaith Understanding (approximately 20 members), InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (20 members), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) (approximately 6 active members), and YoungLife (approximately 25 students involved).
These organizations allow students the opportunity to develop and enrich their religious life, while meeting those who share similar beliefs with them.
The final, and only required, way religion is incorporated into the Augustana experience, is through the Christian Traditions credit requirement.
According to the course catalog, “All students enrolling as first-year students at Augustana are required to take a course in Christian Traditions before the end of their sophomore year.”
The classes offered in order for this credit to be obtained are: American Christianities, Global Christianities, Christian Ethics, Christian Origins, Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and Christian Theology.
In the end, a student’s religious involvement on campus is up to their own discretion. They can take one religious course and never discuss religion again, or they can attend weekly worship sessions, join religious groups or even major or minor in religion.
Even though it was founded as a Lutheran College, Augustana encourages religious diversity among its students and faculty.

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Religious diversity at Augustana on the rise