At 1 p.m. on September 26, a peace prayer was held on the steps of Baldwin Hall after a planned demonstration denouncing discriminatory acts was held on September 25. Still graffitied with chalk etchings, the front of Baldwin Hall was filled with students, faculty and staff from Albion College who came together in prayer to give everyone a chance to heal.
After the many polarizing events occurring on campus this semester, including swastika graffiti in Baldwin Hall and pro-DACA language on the Rock being painted over with pro-Trump messages, the demonstration was sparked after a member from the Albion College Conservatives circulated an email with what they considered to contain “racist and violent remarks.” The student shall remain nameless for privacy and safety.
“In my opinion, I think [prayer] is necessary all the time,” said Chaplain Reverend Phillips, who led the prayer circle. “If you look at the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, Dr. King and many of those leaders were protesting and marching, but they were praying before they went out and afterwards, and they were praying for this country and the people involved. That’s my perspective as a Christian, as a pastor and even as a chaplain here, and I want the best outcome for everybody involved.”
Before his prayer, Reverend Phillips mentioned Bible Scriptures, specifically Luke: 18, and everyone was in agreement that the campus needed wisdom, peace and justice, the central points of the Scripture. He wanted his prayer to help give people an inner peace in the midst of a struggle for justice to fight for what we believe is right.
Reverend Phillips also gave moments of silence for those not of a Christian background or faith and for people to have their own thoughts.
Many students, faculty and community members were moved to tears by Reverend Phillips prayer. For Dianne Guenin-Lelle, associate provost for advising and assessment, and professor of French at Albion College, the most important part of events like these is to be engaged in the process.
“What’s playing out here is playing out in the United States right now and in the world,” said Guenin-Lelle. “I think over the last two days, thoughtful students have grown in their understanding of what that means, who they are and what they can do and how they can make it better for themselves, but more importantly, for people who come after that.”
The events that have transpired this semester have sparked many conversations across campus, but Reverend Phillips feels that there needs to be more dialogue. To have these conversations, he says, students must be aware of events like the ones that transpired Monday.
“If I just have my head in the books and that’s what I’m focused on, then I won’t know about the conversations. If an issue doesn’t impact me directly, I may not be aware of the conversations. If yesterday brings awareness and understanding and people want to talk about it or get a better understanding, then that’s a good thing,” said Phillips.
Bob Dunklin, president of the Albion branch of the NAACP, was in attendance for Reverend Phillips’s prayer. In terms of conversations, he feels that voices should be heard and dialogues are an important aspect to working out differences.
“Sometimes it’s needed so people’s voices can be heard,” said Dunklin. “It’s also important that students on campus try to develop relationships and talk about issues that’s hurting them.”
For many people in attendance, the prayer felt like a reassurance that everything will be okay. One student in particular, Cash Jones, was grateful for Reverend Phillips prayer and the sense of community brought on by those in attendance.
“I feel like the prayer was needed because a lot of us are left feeling really hurt and we don’t really have anything on campus that really reassures us that everything will be okay anymore,” said Jones. “I feel like Reverend Phillips coming out kind of said for all of us that we’ll be okay and we do have community, although they do try and strip that away from us.”
Photo by Steve Marowski