In an effort to bring together members of the spiritual life community, freshmen Anelisa Gamiz, Grace Norton and Hassan Suhaib, sophomore Sanjana Sultana and junior Momin Zahid hosted a forum to discuss suggestions for renovations for the new space.
“A lot of people in our group are very involved with the spiritual life here and they are a part of different spiritual clubs, like Islamic Club or different Christian clubs on campus, so they definitely wanted a space that’s more accessible to them and can take care of their needs better,” Gamiz said. “I think we’re all looking forward to a space that can be used more and that can be used for many different things and not just one club or faith.”
The group decided to hold the forum to fulfill the project requirement for their Student Leader Selection class, which was created to select and hire students for eight leadership positions: Center for Intercultural Life Peer Educator, Dare to Care Peer Educator, International Ambassador, Living Learning Community Mentor, Orientation Leader, Resident Assistant, SPARK Mentor and TRIO Team Leader.
Initially, Gamiz said the group wanted to make the Spiritual Life cottage more inviting and welcoming to people but later, she found out that the Spiritual Life Center will be moving into the Second Baptist Church next to the Old Jail. They decided that the forum would be a good way to hear multiple student opinions on what should be included in the new Spiritual Life Center next year.
“I’ve heard that there’s just not much here [at the cottage]. It’s very much kind of plain and bland and there’s not much they can do with the space as it stands,” Gamiz said. “Also a lot of people didn’t know this space was open for them to use, so hopefully [in] this new spiritual place, people will be more open to using it.”
According to Spiritual Life Director Monica Corsaro, the Second Baptist Church was the second African American church to be built in Galesburg and was completely funded by African Americans starting in the 1850s.
The members of the church are getting older and wanted to move to a new building, and so they approached Knox about selling, she said.
Corsaro said that the church was purchased after a generous donation given by an anonymous alum with a passion for interfaith dialogue and spirituality.
The new center will be interfaith with a large space on the main floor that is plain. Corsaro also said that there will be no religious symbols and plenty of storage space.
The second floor balcony could also be renovated into a hangout space for Knox students with furniture and possibly tea, coffee and snacks.
“There has been a vision for 6-7 years … to have a center that can meet the needs,” Corsaro said. “You can’t do any kind of major events [in the current space].”
Corsaro said that when she was hired as the Spiritual Life Director the college had already begun looking for ways to expand on the Spiritual Life Center.
Possible renovations included adding on to the current cottage building, tearing down the building and creating a new space or buying a plot of land to build a new space.
Corsaro said that she was initially excited for the possibility of designing a new spiritual space for the campus.
The forum was held Monday evening with over 20 students in attendance. Discussions ranged from what type of spiritual decorations would be in the main worship area, if there would be meditation and yoga classes offered and if the building should be a designated 24 hour area.
The possibility of opening the space to Galesburg community members was also brought up during the forum, but students were unsure of how they wanted to incorporate other community members in the space.
Corsaro also mentioned that the donor has a vision of adding a Japanese meditation garden along the side of the Second Baptist Church closest to the Old Jail.
Comments and suggestions were recorded on a poster board that will be given to Corsaro and will be taken into consideration for next year. Renovations of the church began earlier this term and are set to finish in January of 2019.
Pagan Club member and sophomore Eli Hicks is looking forward to having a Spiritual Life Center that is closer to club members, many of whom live off campus.
Hicks also mentioned that the current Spiritual Life Center is often crowded during Pagan Club events, which makes it difficult to have discussions.
“A lot of people don’t know the name of [the cottage] and don’t know what’s going on here. They usually see it as all dark and foreboding, I guess, so it’s not the most inviting or public space from what I’ve heard,” Hicks said. “Getting crowded is definitely an issue, especially when you’re in this oblong, oval-ish shape trying to have an equal discussion and you can’t see the other people.”