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University Chapel, Lyceum and Interfaith Challenge Share Tie-Ins This Fall

August 22, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or

MACON — Mercer University’s Fall Chapel services on the Macon campus will have a special emphasis this year in support of the new Universitywide Lyceum program and Mercer’s participation in President Obama’s national Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

Mercer is one of approximately 250 colleges and universities across the country to commit to a year of interfaith cooperation and community service as part of the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Administered by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the initiative seeks to impact specific community challenges, from homelessness to mentoring to the environment, while helping to build social capital and civility.

In addition to the special Chapel programs that tie into the Interfaith and Community Service Challenge, Mercer students as part of the initiative – and in conjunction with the ongoing LEAP (Local Engagement Against Poverty) initiative launched last year – will participate in seven “Service Saturdays” during the semester, beginning with the Sept. 17 “Be a Good Neigh-Bear” service project. Mercer will partner with members of area Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu congregations on the semester-long community service projects as a means to promote interfaith cooperation.

The University is launching a new initiative, Mercer Lyceum, to help coordinate existing University lectures and events, as well as new ones, around a single theme. The Lyceum will allow for more in-depth discussions, and, organizers hope, more in-depth learning, while helping to create new partnerships among the many disciplines at Mercer’s campuses.
The Lyceum has been approved for four years, with two biennial cycles focusing on a single theme. The first theme is “Rebuilding Democracy” and will run from Fall 2011 to Spring 2013. The theme is built in part to help educate students about the challenges facing American democracy – hyper partisanship, governmental gridlock, low voter turnout and weak understanding of constitutional democracy, as well as outside threats, such as the growing gap between rich and poor, a shrinking middle class and the decline of America’s influence in the world. The Lyceum will help to inform students about these issues, but also help to train them to become better citizens themselves by examining possible solutions to those issues. The organizers hope the conversations help them find ways to address those challenges both as citizens and as professionals in their chosen careers.
The fall Chapel programs will kick off with a three-part interfaith dialogue involving faculty members Dr. Eimad Houry, a Muslim, and Dr. Scott Nash, a Christian; and Larry Schlesinger, rabbi at Macon’s Temple Beth Israel and a member of the Macon City Council.
A special evening Chapel service on Sept. 15 will feature a lecture by Mercer Chancellor R. Kirby Godsey on his new book, Is God a Christian?
“In an effort to bring light where there has been so much heat, Dr. Godsey makes the case in his book that God is bigger than any one of our religious traditions and beyond all of our dogmatic assertions. In light of this conviction, Dr. Godsey issues an earnest call to all people to practice humility, understanding and respect in their encounter with religious traditions that are not their own,” said Dr. Craig McMahan, university minister and dean of the Chapel. “Dr. Godsey will address this timely and important topic on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. in Newton Chapel as part of Mercer’s participation in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.”
The full University Chapel schedule for the fall is listed below. Programs that tie in with the Lyceum or President’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge are marked with an asterisk.
“It Is Not Good to Be Alone: Rebuilding Community”
Wednesdays, 10 a.m., Newton Chapel
Aug. 31     *“Interfaith Dialogue” with Dr. Eimad Houry, professor and chair of political science; Dr. Scott Nash, professor of Christianity; and Rabbi Larry Schlesinger, Temple Beth Israel and member of Macon City Council

Sept.  7     *“Interfaith Dialogue” with Dr. Eimad Houry, Dr. Scott Nash, and Rabbi Larry Schlesinger
         14    *Interfaith Dialogue with Dr. Eimad Houry, Dr. Scott Nash, and Rabbi Larry Schlesinger
         21    John Haught, Senior Fellow, Science & Religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, “Astrophysics and Cosmic Purpose”
         28    Sam Harrell, Mercer On Mission host in Kenya

Oct.  5        Dr. Paul Lewis, associate professor of Christianity, “Sources of Moral Incentive and Behavior”
         12     Taize Worship, Dr. Craig McMahan
         19     *Gary Simson, dean of Mercer Law School, “Religious Liberty”
         26     *Tim Floyd, professor, Mercer Law School, “The State and Punishment — Alternatives to Punitive Options”

Nov.   2        Malkhaz Songulashvili, Baptist Archbishop, The Republic of Georgia
          9      *Jim Jennings, director and president of Conscience International
        16       Dr. Bryan Whitfield, assistant professor of Christianity, “Shaping the Spiritual Life”
         23      Thanksgiving Break
         30      Stacey Harwell, minister of community building, Centenary Church, “Church and Community: What One Congregation is Doing”

Dec. 7         Taize Worship, Dr. Craig McMahan

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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