Spiritual search at Leeds

December 19, 2003

Students at Leeds University are being offered the chance to ponder the meaning of life under the institution's plans to offer spirituality modules across its entire undergraduate curriculum.

The university chaplaincy has developed a series of assessed modules aiming to teach students from any discipline about the search for meaning in life, which the Rev Simon Robinson, the university chaplain, said he hoped would become hugely popular.

"Spirituality is, to some extent, intuitive but we believe it is a skill that can be learnt and that can add a great deal to the curriculum," Mr Robinson said.

The aim is to develop practical skills to equip students to answer questions such as "Who am I?", "Is there hope for the world?" and "How can I change the world?"

Mr Robinson said: "Spirituality is something we have to work on in relation to other personal and professional areas of our lives - and not just at Christmas. It enables us to move beyond the self and empathise with others.

With postmodernism and the break up of big ideas, spirituality has become individualistic and segmented. But we want to recognise spirituality as a core dimension of humanity."

While religion and the history of different religious traditions are core elements of the modules, Mr Robinson stressed that individuals did not need to be religious to be spiritual.

He said: "Spirituality is about awareness of, and the capacity to respond to, the 'other', which can be anything from the divine to Manchester United. Spirituality gives our lives meaning through our relationships with others."

Leyla Ochai, the university's welfare officer, took one of the modules. She said: "The course was challenging and helped me to think in new ways, as well as being very personal.

"I realised spirituality can be found anywhere because it is about you and the way you relate to others, it's about listening and caring and understanding - whether you come to this through God or through poetry or music or whatever doesn't really matter."

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