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The Carletonian

Carleton Christian Community celebrates Unity Week

<ay, May 18, the Carleton Christian Community opened up their prayer tent outside of the chapel to commence a week “of uniting the body of Christ at Carleton, in Northfield, and beyond, in and through prayer,” according to their schedule. The prayer tent is this year’s celebration of Unity Week, which the Carleton Christian Community organizes annually to celebrate unity between different Christian denominations. In the past, however, Unity Week has usually been a smaller event and involved more interaction between Carleton and the community of Northfield. This year’s event is decidedly larger.

The Christian Community plans, and has thus far been successful, to have somebody praying in the tent 24 hours each day from Sunday, May 18, until Sunday, May 25. They have created a roster system to facilitate the process and the tent is stocked with bottled water and tea so that lonely shifts in the middle of the night aren’t too uncomfortable. The tent is also open to the public 24 hours each day during the week so that people may come in and pray or read the material posted along the walls of the tent. There have also been, and will be, events held in the tent or in the chapel classroom. On Friday, May 23, for example, there is a “Social Justice Focus with Jake Qian,” another event with a guest speaker yet to be announced, an open prayer session with ministry teams, and “Nightwatch Worship and Prayer.” This Saturday, May 24, the Christian Community will also hold events on the Bald Spot.

Tuesday, May 20, Lynn Yang ‘09 and Josh Yeoh ’07 led an hour of prayer through contemporary Christian music. Those in the prayer tent were overwhelmingly supportive of one another and very hospitable and friendly with the people was attended from outside the faith or outside of the college. At its peak, about twenty people sat or knelt on the grass or squares of carpet in the well-lit tent. Yang and Yeoh played the guitar and sang, alternating between lively choruses and light strumming interspersed with biblical verses and appeals to the other worshippers. The crowd, mainly Carleton students but also some members of the Northfield community, sang along at times and openly cried at others. After the hour was over, the worshippers remaining – about seven or so – gathered around and placed one hand on a Carleton student in order to pray for the healing of her shoulder. They took turns asking God to heal the student’s shoulder. This time, there was no miracle evident, though some worshippers remained optimistic that a physical therapy appointment the following day would reveal God’s work.

However, according to Yeoh, Nikki Reich ’10, and Kristen Miller ’08, miracles have taken place in the tent. In one incident, a girl who had had a stomachache throughout the day came to the tent to pray and to be prayed for. While praying for her along with others, Yeoh placed his hand upon her hand, which was on her stomach. When both felt a sudden jolt, and the student suffering from the stomachache no longer felt any pain, those praying for her health credited God with the miracle.

In another incident, a non-Christian student who had had a problem with his knee came in and asked that others pray for it. The student commented after the prayer that he had more mobility in his knee than he had had before. Reich said, “It still hasn’t really hit me that these have been miracles. We certainly haven’t resurrected anybody or anything like that, but it’s still incredible what has happened.” There have also been miracles that cured toothache of a Northfield community member and a headache of another student.

“We don’t expect everybody to necessarily believe us about the miracles,” said Yeoh, “but we certainly feel like we’ve witnessed something.”

While Thursday night’s event was largely Evangelical, Unity Week encompasses all Christian denominations. Reich said that she had even heard people reciting Catholic prayers in Spanish. According to statistics gathered from the ACE/CIRP Freshman Survey, less than 7% of Carleton students in graduating classes between ’07 and ’10 are Evangelical. The total Christian percentage is 43%, with 30% of Carleton students declaring themselves as Protestant and 13% as Catholic. What Evangelical students lack in numbers, they make up for in activity. Reich said that despite the relatively low percentage of Evangelical students, the e-mail list of the Christian Community, which was used to organize Unity Week, was “quite Evangelical -heavy.” Thursday night’s event reflected this tendency.

There were other miracles involved in Unity Week, specifically in its funding. The main organizers of the event, Reich, Angie Kim ’08, and Joe Gamello ’08, say that they have received envelopes in their Carleton mailboxes containing a total of around seven hundred dollars with notes asking that the money be put towards Unity Week. This money, they believe, may well have come from a faculty member, as they can’t imagine students being individually able to donate such a large sum. The tent rental itself was to cost $150 each day before the company offered to charge only $150 for all seven days and sound equipment that would have cost around three thousand dollars to hire was rented to them for a much lower rate so that they could have a concert on Saturday, May 24. They have also received some funding from the Chaplain’s office, which provides funding for religious events of all faiths.

Unity Week and its prayer tent stand out on a campus that is known to be more agnostic, if not atheistic. Alaa El-Bashir ’09, a Muslim student, said that although she had no objections to the event itself, she was surprised by how public it was. Gary Hvass, a local resident who works with Carleton Christians and hosts Christian events in his living room, points out that “it wasn’t that many years ago that the Princeton Review ranked Carleton as being one of the top twenty schools in the nation where ‘students ignore God on a regular basis’; we’re no longer in that top twenty.” Carolyn Fure-Slocum, Carleton’s chaplain agreed with this trend, saying that she had observed religion becoming a more and more important part of Carleton during her eleven years as Carleton’s chaplain. Even in the last couple of years, there has been a perceivable difference, as Ben Faroe ’05 points out. “It’s great to be back on campus and to see the Christian community so much more active than it was when I was a student here,” Faroe said.

More information about Unity Week, the prayer tent and a schedule of events can be found online at

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