No Label Required

Today’s post is from Rachel Hyden, Campus Organizer for Ohio University’s Better Together Campaign. 

For the majority of my life I have had no religious identity. As a child my parents never took me to church, and through high school I never much spoke of religion. It wasn’t until college that I really started questioning my beliefs­– not only the basic questions like where I came from, what my purpose is, and if there is a God, but questioning where I fit in. I knew I was a moral person- I believed in equity, I believed in peace, and I believed in doing what was best for this planet and the people on it. But I didn’t know where I fit in. Was there a religious community out there for somebody like me?  Someone who doesn’t identify with a religion, but instead lives a life based on the common morals and ethics you would find in most religious codes? What do you call somebody like me?
What I’ve come to realize through my interfaith organizing is this­– I don’t need a label to fit in. My morals and my values are my religion, and I am finally comfortable with the lack of title. It wasn’t easy getting to this point­– for so long I craved to believe in a recognized religion. But I don’t need the label to fit into this community, this interfaith community. And here at Ohio University, this interfaith community is really starting to grow.
On September 11, over 350 OU and Athens community members gathered for an Interfaith Peace Walk. With so many faith traditions represented, it was utterly breathtaking to see the diversity intertwining through the crowd. Labels and no labels, we were a community walking as one. And despite our differences, we stood side by side for our shared belief in peace. There are few words that can truly describe the moment when I felt the sense of belonging that I had been yearning for. It was incredible.
While the Peace Walk was a moment that will stay with me for a lifetime, I know there are many more to come. Better Together at Ohio University will be working this year to raise $5,000 to build a well in a developing nation. If that goal is reached and we can successfully give a community access to clean and safe drinking water, I know that moment will change me forever. With just one year of interfaith organizing, we have the potential to save someone’s life. Imagine what we could do with ten?

The White House Interfaith Challenge

Hi!  *Waving.*  My name is Shea Daniels.  Welcome to the Better Together at Ohio University Blog!  This week I’d like to tell you about the White House Interfaith Challenge, mostly because I’m really really excited about it.  Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll be excited about it, too!

The White House Interfaith Challenge is a super-cool initiative that Ohio University is part of.  It’s a service based challenge focused on interfaith cooperation.  Let’s break those sentences down a little bit further, because it seems to me that there’s two really important ideas being communicated, and I want to make sure you end up just as excited about them as I am.

Idea 1: The White House Interfaith Challenge is service based.  Colleges who are part of the challenge, like Ohio University in Athens, choose two issues to focus that service around, one domestic and one international.  Here at Ohio University we’ve chosen Domestic Poverty and Food Insecurity (this is what I’m working on) as well as International Water Security (initiative run by Rachel Hyden).  Students and community members are banning together to serve hot, yummy, healthy free meals twice a week (domestic poverty / food insecurity) while raising money to build at least one well in Africa (international water security).  And we’re having a blast!

Idea 2: This is an Interfaith challenge.  What does Interfaith mean?  Semantically, let’s visit our good friend Webster.  According to Webster, Interfaith means “involving persons of different religious faiths.”  This is a really good definition but I would like to challenge Mr. Webster on one point…Interfaith work is for folks of all and no faith traditions, so folks who are atheists, agnostic, or don’t know what they are, are as welcome as folks who are Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, or Wiccan.  Lots of people involved in our Interfaith challenge don’t claim any religious tradition.  Lots of people involved in our Interfaith challenge are devout followers of a religion.  And we’re all working together, because that’s the point.  Even if we don’t agree on everything we agree it is more productive to build a well in Africa than to argue about religious differences.

So, that’s the White House Interfaith Service Challenge in a nutshell.  Interested in getting involved?  Yay!  Email  Rachel at for more informational about the International Water Security initiative, or if you want to join our Steering Committee.  If you’re interested in Domestic Poverty and Food Insecurity you can email me, Shea, at, or just show up at UCM’s Free Meals Program (Thursday 5:30, Saturday 1PM). 

So, once again, I’m Shea.  *Waving.*  Welcome to Better Together at Ohio University’s blog.  Stay tuned in coming weeks for all kinds of interesting posts from all kinds of people.  We’ll be talking about Interfaith work, about the service we’re doing, and about what it means to us.  Because we’re pretty sure that we’re better together than we are divided, and we’re pretty sure we can positively impact the world through the service we’re doing.