(December 11, 2014)

Chaplain engages a broader audience for spiritual growth

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary College's United Methodist tradition has been part of the institution's story since its founding in 1825. Embodying the spirit of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, this tradition emphasizes scholarly inquiry, academic freedom, and spiritual growth.

Valerie Robideaux '03, Director of Professional Discernment and College Chaplain

For many students, the Centenary experience would not be complete without involvement in a religious group for personal growth and fellowship. Programs like the Christian Leadership Center; Stepping Stones, an ecumenical contemporary worship service; United Methodist Student Movement; and Fellowship of Christian Athletes have nurtured students' sacred belief systems for years. However, not every student or member of the Centenary community has come from a conventional faith tradition or is even comfortable enough with spirituality to have open and frank conversation. That is where Director of Professional Discernment and College Chaplain Valerie Robideaux '03 comes in.

"Our office is trying to engage a broader audience," says Robideaux. "My goal as Chaplain is to be present and make myself available to anyone regardless of their identity or what they believe."

Robideaux has recently launched two new programs, Theology on Tap and the upcoming Spill Your Ink event, to engage new participants and encourage them to grapple with difficult questions.

"Seen in many other denominations, Theology on Tap is our Centenary event where anyone 21 and older can meet in a group with me and enjoy meaningful conversation over a beverage," said Robideaux, who has invited participants to bring their "IDs and cash - plus questions, frustrations, and observations regarding theology" to the past two events. "It's an effort to say, 'Look you can have informal conversations with your pastor.' We are trying to make those conversations more accessible and everyday, and model that people can have these conversations just by gathering with friends."

Robideaux explains that spiritual growth does not have to be limited to sitting in a pew, listening to messages and never asking questions. Instead, exploring religiosity can be an exchange. A more informal setting also sends the message that people can loosen up when having such discussions. The next Theology on Tap gathering is scheduled for January.

Another exciting and unique event, Spill Your Ink, will take place Monday, February 2, 7-9 p.m. in a coffee-house styled Kilpatrick Auditorium . Students can share music and be part of an "open mic" set-up to explain their tattoos or body art.

"Spill Your Ink will have the same goals as Theology on Tap," said Robideaux. "It will be an event where you can bring your full self; you don't have to hide your tattoos or body art which often point to a higher principle and are symbolic of religious identity or spirituality."

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Spencer Dew will also share more information about religious identity through bodily expression across the globe.

Both these events are open to students, faculty, and staff of any and all faith traditions, agnostic, or atheist.

"Having these conversations and learning about other ideologies prepares our students for a larger reality," said Robideaux. "We are moving away from just sitting in our communities and neighborhood churches where people look just like us. This generation of students isn't interested in that anymore. Our students are expanding their circles to be leaders in the world."