Morgan Interfaith Center
The primary mission of the Morgan Interfaith Center is the assistance of students in developing an appreciation for spiritual and moral values in their lives and for the society in which they must live. To facilitate this end the Center interacts with the administration and the faculty of the University as well as leaders, organizations and institutions in the society. We believe that our mission should be closely associated with the history of the Center and its promotion of spiritual andv social values in a religious environment that is ecumenical.
History of the Center
The mission of the Morgan Interfaith Center is best understood against the background of its history. In 1867 a group of dedicated ministers met at Sharp Street Church to establish the Centenary Biblical Institute. They recognized the need for education to be informed by religious and moral values. That institution grew, and in time the curriculum was broadened and the name was changed to Morgan College in honor of a generous benefactor. In the 1920's the school was moved to its present site and for a while continued to prosper. During the 1930's, however, as a result of the economic depression of the times, the position of the college was in jeopardy. Accordingly, in 1939, the trustees decided to sell the college to the State of Maryland. The proceeds from that transaction were earmarked for the construction of a center for religious activities, a parsonage, and an endowment. The buildings were erected on a plot of land adjacent to the campus, and were dedicated in 1941.
Originally the Center was legally the continuation of Morgan College. During the 1950's the charter was altered and the official name of the corporation was changed to Morgan Christian Center. The board of trustees has from the beginning been independent and self-perpetuating, although there has always been the recognition of the historic close relationship between the Center and the United Methodist Church. That recognition included the presence of representatives of the United Methodist Church on the board of trustees, affiliation of the Center with the official educational ministries of the Church, and annual financial appropriations to the Center from related United Methodist judicatories. Recently, the name of the Center was renamed to the Morgan Interfaith Center as a result of the changing religious landscape on the campus.
The director of the Center has always been chosen by the board of trustees, along with consultation with officials of the College. The resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church has always ratified that choice and officially appointed the nominee, who was a member of the relevant Conference of the Church, and as such, enjoyed all the privileges of a member of the Conference. (In 1990, however, the board of trustees of the Center appointed a non-Methodist as director, who as a non-Methodist did not enjoy all the privileges accorded members of the Conference.)
Through the years the College, now the University, has recognized the importance of the Center and has cooperated by providing employment of the director as a part-time member of the faculty or staff. At the same time, the director has been recognized as the “unofficial” chaplain to the University, performing all the functions that official college chaplains usually render at formal occasions. In addition, for a number of years the college gave an annual stipend to the Center in return for the use of its facilities for classes and the housing of visiting athletic teams.
Spiritual and Moral Values
From the beginning it has been understood that the mission of the Center was an extension of the ideals of the founders of the Centenary Biblical Institute in 1867. That is, the conviction that education should be characterized by the recognition of the importance of religious values in life, and that students should not only have book learning, but should understand the spiritual and moral values that inform the life of the truly educated person. It is the recognition that while knowledge is important, what matters most is what we do with that knowledge. The Center exists to give direction to the implementation of spiritual and religious values in character formation so that crucial life decisions are properly grounded.
The Morgan Interfaith Center exists also as a continuing symbol of the relevance of religious and moral values in higher education. As such it is recognized not only by the University but also by the community at large. Its facilities provide space for a va riety of activities, not only by students and faculty, but also by various organization and individuals in the Baltimore area.
Students at the University come from a variety of religious backgrounds. One of the functions of the Center is to provide a place for the spiritual nurture of all students and faculty. The chapel provides a place for regular formal worship, for informal religious meetings or conferences, and for weddings and funerals, primarily but not exclusively, for persons associated with the University.
As for worship, it is the mission of the Center to provide the best models with respect to types of creative and energetic services and quality of sermons and of music, so the students' levels of understanding and appreciation of what worship is all about may be raised. The Center seeks to serve as a learning opportunity for students as well as an arena to develop their leadership and public speaking skills.
The name, Morgan Interfaith Center, recognizes that although founded and receiving support from the United Methodist Church, it is primarily an ecumenical institution. It is a place for cooperation and activities of representatives of all religious faiths. During its history the Center has sponsored the organization of the denominational groups on the campus. These have been formed into what has been called the Morgan Student Council. These groups have carried forward inspiring activities both individually and collectively. The Center thus provides opportunities for developing creative understanding between sometimes competing religious denominations.
At the Morgan Interfaith Center, students are given the opportunity to develop leadership skills by participation in religious activities, including the regular Sunday morning worship services and weekly student led Bible studies in the dormitories. At the same time, their religious horizons are broadened, and they should inculcate in their lives certain principles that may sustain them– whatever fortunes or misfortunes they may encounter in later life.
The mission of the Morgan Interfaith Center is to provide facilities and foster experiences whereby the members of the campus community may develop their spiritual and moral insights and find opportunity for meeting their moral and spiritual needs. They should acquire increasingly clearer insights into what creative religion truly is. Thus the Morgan Interfaith Center is a constant presence on the University campus, symbolizing the importance of religious and moral values not only in higher education, but also in the life-long journeys of individuals.