Christian Fellowship: 30 students participate in an "All Night Prayer"

by Victoria Nelsen | 8/13/15 7:30pm

An unheard and often forgotten voice on Dartmouth’s campus is that of religious communities. Though many students are involved in various religious organizations, the various fellowships and communities tend to keep to themselves, offering a space for students who want it without having a larger voice on campus. That changed on Friday night, when 30 students journeyed around campus offering passing students prayer.

The Summer Christian Fellowship, a combination of all the Christian fellowships on campus, comes together during the summer with less students on campus. The group organized this event last Friday. The prayer walks were part of a larger event called “All Night Prayer.” Held in Sarner Underground, around 30 students congregated to worship for the entire night, ending the evening with a 7 a.m. Lou’s Challenge.

Shefali Gladson ’16 organized the event and said the intention was to “be a light on this campus” and to give love and encouragement to other students. She said the event followed what Jesus called on his disciples to do. Though the event was small, Gladson said that SCF hoped it would bring about some change on the campus, even if that change only affected one person.

“It was something I felt called to do,” Gladson said. “I feel like Christian communities tend to be distant from the larger campus, and I thought this would be a good way to become more involve and to love on campus.”

The event began around 11 p.m. on Friday night with “worship” for two hours, which Gladson said included a band and singing. From 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., students split up into groups and walked around campus, offering prayer to other students. For the rest of the night, the SCF students returned to Sarner, spending the remaining hours praying and worshipping.

The students did not target certain parts of campus or types of students in their prayer walks. Jake Casale ’17, who participated in the event, said that there was no particular agenda and the students were looking for anyone that God brought before them.

“I think primarily we just wanted to bless and love campus through this,” Casale said. “I believe, and we believe, that prayer is very powerful.”

Casale said that he and two others approached a total of eight students, most of whom someone knew before. A few people asked to be prayed for and one of the SCF members would do a verbal prayer while the other two prayed silently.

He added that most students were receptive to and appreciative of their offer and none were disrespectful.

Gladson approached around 10 to 12 students, although none of them wanted to be prayed for. Going in, Gladson said she expected there to be awkwardness on both ends and she was not surprised by people’s hesitancy when approached. Still, she said that everyone was respectful.

“I was very humbled by how open people were willing to be,” she said.

Casale said that while this was not the first “All Night Prayer” that he has attended, it is the first with the secondary goal of outreach involved.

In addition to the prayer walks, SCF passed around a prayer box and emailed a Google form to campus. The form offered all students the opportunity to submit prayer requests, which could be anonymous if desired. Gladson said that the prayer box collected around 10 to 15 responses, while 10 people requested prayers through the Google form.

As a more personal goal, Casale said that he was hoping to grow in boldness in his faith and to shed his concerns about how he and his Christianity are received through the event. He said that he, as well as many other Christians, are nervous and worried about how they will be received when being open with their faith.

Cassidy McDermott ’17 was approached by SCF members on Friday night while eating with a friend in Novack Café. She said that they took her by surprise, but ultimately agreed to be prayed for, despite not being religious. Though McDermott said the experience was strange, she said she did not mind being approached.

Religion department chair Randall Balmer said that he has heard of similar events such as this one happening on college campuses in his 30 years of teaching. He said that he could see other students being offended by such an event if they do not feel like they need prayer, but believes that there is nothing wrong with the event.

“There’s a part of me that admires these students for their conviction and for acting on their beliefs,” Balmer said.

Gladson said that the event also helped to cultivate unity within the Christian body on campus, as there sometimes exist walls between denominations. SCF is open to all sects of Christianity.

SCF’s outreach continues tonight with an event called #VulnerabilityIsNotAWeakness, which SCF is co-hosting with X.Ado, the Christian a cappella group on campus. The event will be a talent show interwoven with various stories of people’s experiences with their Christian faith and coming to know God, Gladson said.

She said the purpose behind the event is to let people know that Christians are as broken as the rest of the world and to combat the perception that Christians are judgmental or feel superior to others.