Last year they sponsored a "soup lunch," a series explaining the basic tenets of the world's major religions.
JACKSON TWP. In 1967, the country was roiled by civil rights.
Increasing numbers of college students engaged in campus protests against the war in Vietnam. The "generation gap" between parents, raised to trust the government, and their Baby Boomer offspring, who questioned everything, was widening every day.
But there was something else. Across the nation, large numbers of teens and 20-somethings were grabbing hold of the "Jesus Movement."
With their long hair and contemporary music running counter to staid Sunday morning hymns, they proudly called themselves "Jesus Freaks."
Fifty years later, faith still has a place on the campuses of Kent State Stark and Stark State College, in the form of the Interfaith Campus Ministry.
"Our mission is we want to provide a faith presence on the university campus," said the Rev. Michael Gleason, Interfaith's executive director and chaplain on the Kent Stark campus since 2008. "We want to help people grow or explore faith ... anybody of any faith is welcome to come speak to me."
Though he is a Christian, Gleason said, Interfaith does not proselytize on behalf of a particular faith. Earlier this year, Interfaith and the Faculty Diversity Committee co-hosted a discussion about Islamophobia.
Last year they sponsored a "soup lunch" a series explaining the basic tenets of the world's major religions.
"We were saying that unmerited prejudice against any faith is wrong," he said. "We recognize the importance of belief, whether it's Jewish or Hindu... In these days of people trying to usher faith out of institutions, we're sensitive not to push one tradition over another."
Gleason, a former agnostic, said that when it comes to faith, he believes students are seeking stability.
"The belief that there must be something beyond us," he said. "Human culture is not reliable. It shows us there is no safe place on Earth. There has to be an 'anchor,' a rock."
Interfaith was incorporated on Sept. 4, 1967. It opened its Kent Stark office in 1968, and the Stark State office in 1973.
Bill Casto was Interfaith's first director, serving for one year. The Rev. Thomas Douce was its longest tenured director starting 1969 and retiring in 2008. The Rev. Joe Lazur was the first co-director, serving from 1972 to 1978.
In 2003, the late Carol Nagi became Stark State's first director, serving until 2015.
Interfaith also participates in social justice activities, including food drives to benefit the Akron-Canton Food Bank, and taking part in a march following the Orlando terror attack last spring.
"It wasn't a statement for anything except human beings were unjustly murdered," Gleason said.
In 1977, Interfaith opened a preschool childcare center at neighboring John Knox Presbyterian Church. Students from Kent Stark and Stark State provide the personnel, and the church provides the operating space.
The 40-year partnership, Gleason said, is a credit to the university, Stark State and John Knox.
The Rev. Ryan Johanning, assistant pastor at John Knox, has served as Stark State's Interfaith director for about two years.
"They are looking for someone authentic, something and someone to believe in," he said of students. "They want to hear stories, as well as share their stories. I saw that need and I wanted to do something about it."
Johanning also mentors Stark State students.
"I had mentors throughout my college journey who were an encouragement to me," he explained. "It's a true privilege to help them accomplish their goals in this stage of their lives."
Interfaith also offers faith-based counseling and grief counseling. Gleason has officiated weddings and assists families in crisis.
"A lot of issues at this age are developmental," he said of the students he counsels. "They're moving from dependence to independence. They're trying to become their own person, but they're afraid of it.
"If faith is substance, it can be questioned."
For more information, contact Gleason at 330-244-3282, or visit www.kent.edu/stark/interfaith-campus-ministry
Contact Johanning at 330-494-6170, extension 4264.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP