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One of the many wonderful programs of the CFV is the annual Butler Seminar on Religion and Global Affairs, which has been presented by the CFV along with the Religion program for nearly 25 years. Each year a Religion professor directs the Seminar on a topic of contemporary global significance. In the past we have had Seminars on Religion and Science, Religion and Freedom of Speech, Religion and Immigration, Religion and Race, and Religion and Trans Lives. This year’s Seminar, which I am directing, is on the topic of Religion and Ecology.

The CFV Seminar takes place over four evenings throughout the year, featuring public lectures by scholars and activists from across the country and in some cases around the world, each bringing their own unique expertise to the topic of that year’s Seminar. In addition to the public lectures there is also a concurrent 300-level Religion course open to students from each of Butler’s six colleges. The course meets for three hours on the Saturday morning before the public lectures, and the students also join the speakers and local guests for dinner and conversation before the lectures. Each director of the Seminar runs their courses differently, but for my course the students read a book related to the topic of the session, post discussion questions and responses online, and then write a seminar paper exploring the themes of the text and the session. On Saturday morning we have deep and far-ranging conversations together on the themes of the text and the session, each student bringing their own unique viewpoint to these challenging topics. After the public lectures the students write a reflection on what they learned during the public lectures and the conversations with the speakers, and these papers in particular affirm the that CFV Seminar is a rich and rewarding experience for Butler students!

This past Tuesday evening was the first of our four public sessions for this year’s Seminar. The title of this session was “The Places that Move Us: Ecology as a Vocation.” Our keynote speaker was Dr. Laurel Kearns, Professor of Ecology, Society, and Religion at Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey. She is an expert on Religion and Ecology and is a co-founder of the Green Seminary Initiative. In addition to Dr. Kearns’s keynote we also heard from two respondents. The first was Dr. Murat Eyuboglu, a documentary filmmaker and artist-in-residence at National Sawdust, who recently made a film on the Colorado River and is currently making a film on the Amazon River. The second respondent was Dr. Travis Ryan, chair of the Biological Sciences Department at Butler and an expert on urban ecology. For the class meeting before the lectures, students in the course read and discussed Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

The question for this first session of the Seminar was a simple one: what are the places that have moved us, shaped us, and inspired us to do the work of conservation, environmental activism, and ecojustice? What experiences of nature have we had in our lives that have compelled us to care for the Earth, its creatures, and its ecosystems? And in what sense is that work a vocation, a calling?

For myself, there is a clear answer to these questions. I grew up in a small, rural county in southcentral Pennsylvania where the bonds with nature ran very, very deep and still do to this day. Growing up in Perry County, it was impossible to ignore the rhythms of the seasons, the patterns of agriculture, the presence of animals all around us, and the beauty of the natural world. We learned how to identify countless species of plants, mammals, birds, insects, fish, and fungi, which we regularly harvested for our own use in gardens, lakes, rivers, creeks, fields, and woods. I learned to love and respect nature from a very early age, first by playing in the woods behind my house and the creek across the road, then by learning how to identify plants and trees, and later by learning how to fish and how to hunt. In the summers I worked on a farm and in the family garden, and in the falls and springs I hunted and fished, always eating whatever we killed. Nature was a familiar companion to us, but we never forgot that it was not our friend. It had its own patterns and it was far stronger than us. In many ways we were dependent on it for so much of our lives, which is a relationship I have palpably felt weaken since moving to the city of Indianapolis.

At the same time, I was being raised in the Lutheran church, where I learned about the God who created the universe and everything in it, who at the end of Genesis 1 pronounces all that exists to be “very good.” I learned to appreciate everything in the world as a good gift of a loving God and to see reflections of God’s care and God’s wisdom in the natural world all around me. I was fascinated by the lessons I learned in nature and seriously considered a career as a Wildlife Conservation Officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission until I realized that studying the sciences required significant competency in mathematics, which was the end of that road for me! Instead, I became a theologian and now I focus on different aspects of nature, still with the same love and respect and awe for the good world God so loves.

In the Seminar on Tuesday evening, our three speakers spoke of their own deep love of nature and reflected on their commitment to conservation and ecojustice as a vocation, a calling. Dr. Kearns spoke with great passion about her upbringing on Sanibel Island off the Gulf Coast of Florida. She shared that she began her undergraduate studies as a student of ecology before falling in love with sociology and the study of religion. But to this day she spends much of her academic energies at the intersection of religion and ecology, believing that we are called to love the Earth, its creatures, and its ecosystems, and to neglect or abuse any one part is to neglect and abuse the whole.

Dr. Eyuboglu spoke of his calling as a filmmaker, his passion for connecting people with beautiful and majestic places, and the people who live there, as a call to action, to protect these places before they are lost forever. He invited us to consider the dangers to these places based on human activity and our failure to think holistically about our use of land and water. He took us (metaphorically) down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, to the Salton Sea, and finally to the delta, a once-thriving ecosystem teeming with life and healthy human settlements but now arid and all but abandoned due to our misuse and abuse of the Colorado River. Through his films, Dr. Eyuboglu hopes to inspire us to care more deeply about these natural places in order to protect and nurture them and to encourage us to think more intentionally about how to live lightly, responsibility, and reverently on the Earth.

Dr. Ryan spoke of the ordinary places that have become extraordinary simply because someone noticed them, cared for them, and loved them. He spoke of the leaps forward in botany thanks to research done at the Indiana Dunes, of the astonishing breakthroughs in tropical ecology at the Smithsonian Research Station in Panama, and of the important work being done in a small corner of South Carolina that reverted to wilderness after a nuclear reactor was decommissioned. None of these places is inherently more interesting than any other place; they just happen to be places where someone thought to ask important questions. Each of these places is now protected, thanks to someone convincing others to notice them and to care about them. He asked us to consider the relationship between questions and place: what questions are we compelled to ask in particular places? How might our own place become extraordinary simply by our having noticed it and loved it? To emphasize this point he shared a quote from Aldo Leopold: “The weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods.” As an urban ecologist, Dr. Ryan closed our evening with a call to love whatever places we happen to find ourselves, whether or not we consider them to be “nature.” Nature is all around us, from the overgrown empty lot down the street to the field of corn or soybeans out in the country to the vast expanses of Lake Michigan, and everywhere in between. And if we truly want to love a place, we must first really get to know it, because we cannot love what we do not know.

In a culture where many people assume that religion and science are eternally at war, Tuesday’s seminar was a refreshing and timely reminder that each of us, whatever our perspective, is pursuing the same basic goal: we want to discover a passion, we want to find something to love, we want to make meaning out of our lives, we want to make a lasting difference. For many of us, those goals are inspired by religion, but for many others they have different inspirations. When we focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us, when we remember that we share so many of the same basic hopes and dreams, we are reminded that we are all in this world together, that we all inhabit the same beautiful, fragile planet as our only home. And we should probably get serious about protecting it while there’s still time.

Brent Hege

CFV Scholar in Residence and Instructor of Religion


Welcome to this inaugural post of my new blog! I’m excited to share with my readers some of the wonderful work we do at Butler University’s Center for Faith and Vocation, specifically our important work of interfaith engagement and vocational discernment. In my posts I hope to explore some of these issues in more depth, share stories from the work of the CFV, introduce you to our CFV Scholars and interfaith leaders on campus and in our community, and much more.

But first, I suppose an introduction is in order. I am the Center for Faith and Vocation Scholar in Residence and Instructor of Religion at Butler, where I’ve taught since 2008. I am a Christian theologian by training, and I identify with the Lutheran Christian tradition as a lifelong member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I did my BA in Religion and History with a minor in Classics at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, my MA in Historical Theology with a minor in New Testament from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and my PhD in Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. I also earned a certificate in German at the Goethe Institut in Dresden, Germany.

At Butler I teach a number of courses related to Christian theology and the Western intellectual tradition, including the First Year Seminar “Faith, Doubt, and Reason” and upper-level courses on God, Evil, Liberation Theologies, Religious Pluralism, and Ecotheology. For several years I also taught Religions of the World and Ethics, the Good Life, and Society, both part of Butler’s Core Curriculum. I directed the 2015-2016 CFV Seminar on the topic of Religion, Race, and Culture, and I am currently directing this year’s Seminar on the topic of Sacred Places: Intersections of Religion and Ecology.

My research focuses on the history of Christian thought, particularly in the period of the Protestant Reformations of the 16th century, 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany, and contemporary American theology. I also dabble in research on theology and culture, theology and science, and theology and secularism. I have published two books and several articles in American and European journals, and I am currently at work on a third book.

I am an active member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church here in Indianapolis, where I sing in the choir and serve on the Worship Committee and the Pastoral Call Committee. I am also the faculty advisor and a board member for Grace Unlimited, Butler’s Lutheran-Episcopal campus ministry, and I serve on the candidacy committee of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the ELCA, which identifies, supports, and evaluates candidates for rostered ministry as pastors and deacons in the ELCA.

I was born and raised outside a small town in Perry County, Pennsylvania, one of only two counties in PA without a traffic light (one was finally installed in 2010, so I suppose that means Forest County wins?), and both sides of my family have deep, deep roots in Perry and Franklin Counties, reaching back to the early 1700s. I am descended from a long line of public school teachers on my father’s side and I am the first on my mother’s side to attend college, an intersection of identities that gives me a profound respect and appreciation for the power and promise of education.

I am a passionate advocate for interreligious engagement and dialogue because I believe that peace and human flourishing begin with understanding. Engagement and dialogue is a vital way of celebrating our diversity while at the same time highlighting how much we ultimately have in common across our very real differences. One of my favorite things about teaching the introductory course in world religions was the opportunity to take students to visit different religious communities right here in Indianapolis and to expose them to the rich diversity and astonishing depth and beauty of our many religious paths.

In my course on Religious Pluralism we focus our attention on the variety of ways Christian theologians have developed to think about and engage the world’s religious traditions. We learn about Christian exclusivism, which insists that Christianity alone is true, about Christian inclusivism, which suggests that Christianity alone possesses the “full” truth but that other religious traditions also contain some “preliminary” or “preparatory” truth, and about various modes of genuinely pluralistic approaches, which hope, each in their own way, to find points of contact and shared values or underlying beliefs within each of the world’s religious traditions, each of which is honored as a unique and equally valid path to truth. One of my favorite images of religious pluralism is found in an old Zen story about a man pointing his finger at the moon. All too often we focus on the finger and forget to look past the finger to the moon itself. This is an illuminating metaphor for how the various religious traditions of the world can be understood as different ways of focusing our attention on the ultimate reality, the “really real,” each from their own unique location and with their own histories, symbols, rituals, ways of living, and worldviews. The “fingers” really are different and can’t be interchanged, but they are all pointing at the same “moon.” This is a metaphor I will be exploring in more detail in future posts.

Here at Butler we have several thriving student religious communities, including Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, mainline Protestants, several evangelical groups, and secular students, each seeking to help students navigate their undergraduate years while enriching their religious and philosophical commitments. Some of the religious communities seek out opportunities for interfaith engagement, while others prefer to tend to their own communities’ needs. But all are engaged in important and meaningful work of spiritual formation and vocational discernment, study and activism, worship and prayer, fellowship and bonding.

Several years ago Butler introduced the CFV Scholarship, which is a financial scholarship awarded to incoming first-year students who demonstrate a passion for interfaith engagement and social activism. We have had Scholars from a number of religious traditions over the years, but most scholars come to us from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. The Scholars, along with Butler’s Interfaith Council, form a vibrant community of students who are committed to their own religious path while also valuing teaching, learning, and working with students of other traditions.

Part of my work with the Scholars will be to foster this interfaith engagement and to work with them to invite more Butler students to engage in interreligious dialogue, learning, and service. Students arrive at Butler from all over the country and from diverse backgrounds, and for many students college is the first time they have had sustained interactions with people from profoundly different backgrounds and life experiences. Making personal connections to people from different backgrounds is often the first important step toward building bridges of understanding and respect, so we have a wonderful opportunity here at the CFV to facilitate that work of building bridges and forging deep and lasting friendships between our students of different faiths. I’m excited to play a role in that work as the CFV Scholar in Residence.

Now that you have a better sense of who I am, where I’m coming from, and the kind of work we do at the CFV, I hope you will return regularly to check up on the good and interesting work we do at the CFV!

Until next time…

Brent Hege, PhD

CFV Scholar in Residence and Instructor of Religion

By Maham Nadeem

This year I served in the role of interfaith intern at the Center of Faith and Vocation. Through my experiences I was able to not only gain knowledge about different faith traditions, but also about my own management strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, the majority of my time was spent planning for a campus wide interfaith program. One of the challenges I often face in large group oriented projects such as this is being able to delegate and lead professionally. I have the tendency to take over group work and do the majority of it myself. Keeping this in mind, I made a conscious effort to delegate work and make sure that every person on the council could share ownership of the program. To spearhead this whole concept in the spirit of group collaboration, I instructed everyone to brainstorm two ideas and then partnered council members into groups to chose one idea among all the options. Subsequently, each group presented the concept they chose and all together the council narrowed down on one of the ideas. Collectively, we decided to hold a fair on the Jordan mall with stalls concentrating on music, art, clothing, discussion, and children’s books. We called it “A Fun Fair to Further Faith with Friends.”

To keep this post short and sweet, I will skip the descriptions of all the planning and brainstorming meetings and skip to the day of the fair. All in all, it was a success from my perspective. Best of all, I was leading but not taking over or controlling. Every member of the council was attentive and helpful. Because of that, there was a charm and energy in the crowd that would not have been possible without their active involvement and excitement. Moreover, because we were in such a central location, we were able to attract a lot of people to our event. Ultimately, the most important part of such an effort is ensuring that a targeted audience is able to attend and we were able to accomplish that.


By Katie Crouse

The knowledge and experience I have gained from my internship with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) has been incredibly valuable. I have made new connections that I hope will continue to grow after my time with the CIC has ended.

Through my work with the CIC, I became more aware of the Indianapolis community around me. As someone who does not have a car at Butler, this internship provided me with opportunities to learn about the community. I visited places of worship and was part of meetings with people from all different backgrounds and faith traditions. I was able to become part of the community and see it in a new way; One that I would not have found on my own.

Collaborating in the production of the Sacred Spaces Tour was wonderful and rewarding. Having a theme of song and recitation, I was able to apply backgrounds from both my music and religion majors. I felt that I contributed greatly to the tour and I gained and understanding of each faith tradition through this process.

The CIC has been an invaluable networking tool for me. I have become equipped with so many connections and outreach opportunities. Through my time at the CIC, I have learned that everyone, everywhere has a story. There is something interesting and unique about every person.

I am thankful to the Center for Faith and Vocation for the internship opportunity. I am also overwhelmingly thankful to the Center for Interfaith Cooperation for their support and guidance throughout my internship. I am especially grateful to the director, Charlie Wiles. His love for interfaith and community inclusion is inspiring. I hope to continue to stay involved with the CIC and to continue to participate and build relations in my Indianapolis community.

by Lauren Koester

Faith and vocation is something in our fast paced and changing society has become a hot topic among many employees and employers. How can a person still live a life of faith, while advancing their career? Having participated in the Center of Faith and Vocation internship program, I have found that faith and vocation go hand in hand. Each organization that partakes in this internship program offers a greater insight into how careers and faith are connected.

Growing up my family instilled in me the idea to pay it forward and to live a life of faith. This past semester I had the opportunity to be Trinity Free Clinic’s marketing intern. This internship allowed me to have the opportunity to see how volunteers and staff pay it forward every day. It has been a joy to hear how the staff and volunteers were led to service; specifically, at this faith based nonprofit.

Trinity Free Clinic is a nonprofit organization in Hamilton County whose purpose and mission is to provide free medical and dental care to Hamilton County’s most vulnerable residents. This spring semester I have had the opportunity to assist the Clinic in their spring fundraiser, Taste Sip Savor. It was amazing watching this event turn from a plan to a successful evening. On April 21, some of the incredible people in Hamilton County came together to support such an amazing cause and mission.

This organization has taught me many skills that I can utilize the rest of my life. Skills from managing multiple social media accounts, how to prospect vendors and sponsors, and above all how to make a positive impact  in the community by still keeping in touch with my faith.



By Charlotte Hinkamp

When I first started my internship at the Expungement Help Desk, I was very excited to
get more legal experience. I did not expect to absolutely love the job, the people that I worked
with, and the people that came in every day to get their criminal records expunged. This
internship was rewarding in several different ways that I did not anticipate, and I am sad that my
time at the Help Desk is coming to an end.
My favorite part of working at the Help Desk was talking to and interacting with all the
people who came in. Everyone has a different story, but everyone has the same goal, which is
expungement. Almost everyone wants to get their record expunged because it is holding them
back from getting a job, and being employed would completely turn their life around. They can
finally stop being held back by mistakes they made in the past, and live the life they always
aspired to live.
The biggest thing I learned is that the Justice System definitely benefits those with
money. Most of the people who visit the Help Desk cannot afford to hire an attorney to help with
expungement and had to use a public defender instead of a private attorney during their cases.
Those who can afford a private attorney are at a clear advantage as those attorneys are more
successful at getting cases dismissed or making a plea deal to lessen the charges. I love being
able to provide people with the opportunity to clear their record, because without the free
services of the Help Desk, these lower income individuals would be disadvantaged because of
their old mistakes.
I could not be more grateful for having the opportunity to intern at the Expungement Help
Desk. Helping people clear their criminal record to embark on a new phase of their life has been
one of my proudest accomplishments as a Butler student. This experience exceeded my
expectations, and although I am sad to leave, I am so happy that I had this experience.

by Matthew Fleckenstein

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it,” Steve Jobs.

As with most new jobs, I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this internship. Sure, I read the job description, asked questions during the interview and I knew what the Center for Faith and Vocation was and what it does but the only sure thing was that I was the communications intern hired to help promote center events on social media and around campus, send out a weekly newsletter and host a monthly event called Big Questions. I figured it to be another communications internship that would give me experience in this huge field I am to enter into. Little did I know what I was about to learn about myself personally and professionally. Here’s what I learned that I love.

  • Putting on for events

Ok, admittedly I knew I enjoyed this going in and it was a significant appeal of this internship, but I didn’t realize how much I love it. From the very beginning conception of the event to watching it happen.

  • Have meaning in my work / when I enjoy my work

If I’m not doing something I enjoy then it is much more difficult for me to do it. Spurring off that, the work has to have meaning to it and meaning can come in many forms. Fortunately with this internship, the work had a lot of meaning. This is something that I just have to keep in mind going forward.

  • Working on a small team

Small teams are wonderful. It means you’re working on multiple projects at once, contributing in a variety of ways not just stuck to one task and you are more likely to see the end product.

Something students can forget as they go through the process of checking off the boxes to get a degree is finding what they truly want to do. This experience has allowed me to reflect on what I want to do and I am grateful for that as I enter my senior year at Butler.

by Emilie Turner

Interning with Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Services quickly became about more than getting class credits, it became a path changer. Working with refugees every day from Burma, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria, teaching them English and about our American culture, and subsequently learning about their culture and journey truly caused me to grow not only as a student but also as a human being. The highlight of my internship occurred two times a week when I got to work with a woman from Somalia and teach her English and acculturation.

Through this opportunity, my patience was truly tested because of the language barrier. However at the end of the day, that language barrier pushed me to step in her shoes and understand what it is like to be in a place where you cannot communicate your basic feelings or even ask for help. You quickly learn what is universal in this world and that is laughter. When we couldn’t understand what each other was saying, rather than getting frustrated we laughed. We also found google translate to be our best friend and we began after our third session to learn about each other. I would share and she would share and sooner or later, I learned that this 24 year old woman has been through more than I could ever imagine, yet every single day I was with her she never stopped smiling and being grateful. Every time I went to leave for the day, she would run to the kitchen and get me different foods. It was her way of saying thank you even if it were her last banana or water she had. You leave this internship with more than just additional academic knowledge but you also compassion, empathy, and faith. You get to personally accompany the clients through their transition, become a familiar face to them, and show them that they are finally welcomed in a country and that is truly humbling. 




By Monica Wright


A few weeks ago, during a slow spell, a woman came into our office for a criminal record expungement. This is not uncommon, we see a number of people every day for this reason, and help them in any way we can. However, this woman immediately caught my attention because of her demeanor. She was hopeful, and came into our office smiling.

She told us that she was about to become a grandmother, and because both of son and daughter-in-law were in the military, she would have a large role in this child’s life. She came to us because she wanted to have some charges expunged that were over 20 years old, so she could set a good example for this child in her life. Not only that, but she shared that she had a rare disease she caught as a real estate agent. She visited a home with a deadly fungus, and the spores had spread through her throat and lungs. She wanted to make sure she could have a fresh start before she passed away. The addition of this new child in her life and her growing uncertainty at her life expectancy inspired her to clear her record. She got emotional at the thought of being able to start fresh, and blessed my supervisor and me before she left our office.

As the Center for Faith and Vocation’s Expungement Desk Intern I work directly with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic at their Expungement Desk. I work to create petitions, early filing requests, research Indiana expungement law, and create marketing materials for the Expungement Desk. Most importantly, I get to hear people’s stories. I hear about their families, their dreams, why they’re trying to clear their records. I get to hear about their dreams and ambitions, and help them create their new future.

Giving someone a second chance is a beautiful thing. No one should be defined by the worst thing they have ever done, that’s why the work done at the Expungement Desk is so important. The work we do is so fulfilling and really changes people’s lives. This internship reminded me the importance of the legal system, and showed me firsthand how it can change someone’s life.

by Nick Maicke ’18

When I applied to become an intern at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation (man, it seems like years ago), there was really no way for me to predict just how much I would gain from the experience. The open-ended nature of the internship and the extremely flexible and dedicated nature of my supervisor Charlie Wiles was an excellent combination for me. It meant that I was able to pursue my own interests (how faith and interfaith affect international politics) while still being very involved with the team’s projects within the CIC. For someone like me that enjoys setting goals for himself and working to reach them independently, this was the perfect structure for me, and it was one of the things that allowed me to really get the most out of this internship.

By far the most exciting part of my work at the CIC was the Festival of Faiths: the group’s main event that brings together dozens of faith groups from throughout Indianapolis. Literature on this event was what made me want to apply to the CIC position, and it definitely did not disappoint. Despite having studied here at Butler for almost three and a half years, I was blown away by the number of different cultural and religious groups that we have right here in our city. The event was like nothing I had ever seen before. Every group that was represented was not only willing but extremely excited to inform the public and share their culture with everyone else. I saw everything from a Buddhist meditation group of a dozen people to Hindus explaining the traditions of the Vedas to a group of Christians, all the while the number of turbans in the room steadily grew as the Sikh representatives happily tied them for those of all faiths. So many of the things I did that day were first-time experiences, and there was no way to prepare for exactly how much I learned during the Festival of Faiths. The event certainly surpassed my expectations, and was one of the most rewarding experiences that I had while working as an intern with the CIC.

If you have the opportunity to work for or even visit the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, it’s an experience I highly recommend. The people there are entirely focused on promoting understanding, interaction and open dialogue between people of different faiths and backgrounds, and on top of that they’re some of the most dedicated workers that I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. Working with Charlie, John, Abbygail and the rest of the staff at the CIC has helped me to grow not only professionally, but personally as well, as I was able to explore and expand my own worldview during my entire time at the CIC. I’m very grateful to the CFV and Butler for affording me this fantastic opportunity, and I can only hope that my future place of employment is anything like the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.


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