Ginger Montalvo/Contributing Photo
All faiths welcomed: A Prayer Room for every person
An open door Prayer Room offers students a quiet space for religious prayer and practice
February 8, 2017
The Prayer Room is in the Olympic building, room 263. This room was created as to invite those of various religions to come for prayer or meditation, if they need it. The room has been around for roughly 5 years.
David Roholt, an Art Professor at Pierce, has his office located just across from the Prayer Room. “We use to have rows of shoes lined up outside of the room,” Roholt says, but the room is now mainly used by Christian students or students looking for quiet meditation or self-reflection. Roholt, along with other professors at Pierce, feel that not many people know about the Prayer Room, believing it is somewhat tucked away and difficult to spot while passing by the busy hallway. Other than the Christian students, the room doesn’t get as much use as it did when it was first established.
Mary Meulblok, the manager of International Student Services, says that the idea for a prayer room was thought of after the college got a U.S. State Department Grant, that had 15 or so international students come per year. About half of these students were Muslim, and most of these Muslim students followed the belief in praying five times a day. The Islamic prayer is called “Salah,” and follows the five Pillars of Prayer, Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha.
They are at dawn, afternoon, in the mid-afternoon, at sunset, and at night; though these times can shift around given the change in season, given the days getting shorter or longer throughout the year.
Professors would call in, telling Meulblok that students were praying in the hallway and such, “As a service to the Muslim students, we wanted to provide them with some kind of place to pray.” Facilities, along with a little help from Holly Gorski, the Vice President of Human Resources at Pierce, were able to find the International Student Services a room. Gorski and Meulblok wanted to focus on making the room inviting to not just Muslim students, but anyone of any faith, “Equity was what we were looking for,” Meulblok says.
This room proved to be temporary, and the Prayer Room changed places twice until being relocated to its current location.
Meulblok does not manage the room, but does keep it reserved, and will inform students of its existence should the need arise. “The program we started [the Prayer Room] for has gone away, but we still have Muslim students with such needs.”
Ginger Montalvo, the president of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), has invested in keeping the Prayer Room decent: getting chairs, rugs, and various religious tomes into the room. “I’m not in charge of it, but no one is, we just try to help in whatever way we can,” says Montalvo. The IVCF is actually a more inclusive club that welcomes various branches of Christianity, from Covenant to Catholic, “We consider ourselves inter-denominational, which we feel is more friendly to any person of Christianity, even non-denominational Christians.”
In Montalvo’s additions to the Prayer Room, she has added numerous decorations to be more welcoming to everyone, including a photo collage of people of various nations, Islamic prayer rugs, and a world map: with pins of nations that some international students come from.
According to Montalvo, the club was brought to Pierce about 4 years ago, but the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship is a national group, which Montalvo herself volunteers with.
Montalvo says one of the challenges for everyone in a club that invites so much Christian diversity, is sometimes “people won’t always agree on certain things,” Montalvo says, “One of the skills to be learned is how to come together in unity without changing your personal beliefs.”
The group isn’t a church, simply a club for people to come together, which Montalvo believes makes them more open in different kinds of ways.
There is a statement on the door to the Prayer Room that was written by Montalvo’s club, which says, “We love you and we support your right to worship and pray freely. Blessings and safety for you during this time.” This statement also is signed by some people from the IVCF Montalvo says this was written and signed after the election of President Trump, “There were a lot of race riots and things when Trump was elected, we wanted to state that we would not change in our acceptance of anyone’s religion no matter what.”
The Prayer Room was created for all faiths to have access to a safe place, for people to fluctuate usage of the room for all religious practices. It holds no bias towards any one religion, and has various religious texts for study, and rugs for prayer. Whether someone is Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or simply curious, the door is open.