KATIE GOODRICH | STAFF REPORTER
BU Prays listserv, a mass-email list students can subscribe to, launched in fall 2010, provides a confidential, nondenominational way by which the Butler community may equest prayers from their peers.
Through grant money, the Center for Faith and Vocation put on a series of workshops for faculty and staff to learn how to help students to make a difference in the community.
One of the faculty and staff members facilitates BU Prays and wishes to remain anonymous in order to protect the confidentiality of the listserv.
The facilitator attended the workshops in fall 2008 and spring 2009.
“We all wanted to support students who are searching for lives of meaning and purpose,” said the facilitator.
The director of the CFV, Judy Cebula, challenged all participants to have an idea or action plan to make a difference in the community. “I thought about students who might be going through challenges and struggles and how they might be looking for some support,” said the facilitator. “Why couldn’t we, as a Butler community, support one another in prayer?”
Any member of the Butler community can send requests to email@example.com to ask the Butler community for prayers. The prayers could be for an ailing family member or a friend who needs help and support.
Cebula arranged a meeting between the facilitator and all the leaders of religious groups about the possibility of a listserv. The facilitator said leaders and students from all faith traditions warmly welcomed the idea.
BU Prays needed a student group in order to have an email address to start a listserv. Grace Unlimited, a Lutheran campus ministry, stepped forward to be affiliated with it.
Father Charles Allen, campus chaplain for Grace Unlimited, said he likes the listserv’s anonymity
“We don’t get information we don’t need, or that other people don’t need us to have, Allen said.” There are no violations of privacy.”
The facilitator said they agree with the necessity for anonymity. “This is not about gossip or sharing information,” said the facilitator. “It’s just about being supportive and caring. It’s important that people feel comfortable if they are going to share their struggles.”
The listserv is also nondenominational. “Any faith tradition, any believer or a non-believer, or anyone who wants to support others can participate,” said the facilitator. “The listserv goes out, and participants can respond in private in the manner of their own private prayer practice, whatever their faith tradition might lead them to do.”
The facilitator thinks it is also important that the listserv is voluntary. “You just have to want to make a difference in the lives of people in Butler’s campus community,” said the facilitator. “You are letting people know that we’re thinking of you and supporting you in prayer.”
Every fall and spring, the facilitator sends out a notice in the Butler Connection to inform students of the listserv’s existence. Approximately 90 community members subscribe to the listserv. The frequency of e-mails depends on the frequency of people who ask for prayer.
“Some weeks no one asks,” said the facilitator. “Some weeks, I am sending out several requests.”
Allen believes the listserv will give people in the Butler community an outlet if they want to utilize it.
“It just seemed like something we didn’t have,” Allen said. “It is non-sectarian. It obviously appeals only to people who pray, and that’s not even every religious person.”
BU Prays reminds people that others have similar plights in life. This helps connect the community.
“It keeps reminding me that things are happening,” Allen said. “And people have all kinds of occasions where they would like prayer. That allows me to pray for them.”
Students are showing interest from the recent Butler Connection post. Freshman Kacey Shriner is an exploratory studies major who showed immediate interest.
“I think that it’s really neat that we have this service as a community that prays for one another,” Shriner said. “I think that it’s pretty cool to bring religion into the community and have it as an important part of what’s going on.”