Muslim students will break Ramadan fast at Christmas celebration
Regardless of their religious beliefs, "the ministry of gastronomy" is at the heart of connecting with college students, says Sharon Kugler (pictured at right), chaplain at The Johns Hopkins University.
The lack of leftovers after the hors d'oeuvre buffet on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Kugler's house will prove that the key to a student's soul is through his or her stomach. Kugler is once again inviting students who are members of the Johns Hopkins Interfaith Council to her Baltimore home for a taste of what has become a holiday tradition: a buffet featuring several varieties of her famous holiday appetizers. While the party offers students a chance to relax for a few hours during finals week in a cozy home full of Christmas decorations, it's also a chance for the group of approximately 50 students to share religious traditions. Kugler says the most eager participants in the holiday celebration are Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha'i, and Muslim students, who want to experience the warmth of a real Christmas celebration.
Muslim students in particular enjoy the dinner-time feast, which has coincided with Ramadan the last two years, Kugler says. Observed by Muslims, Ramadan is the month-long time of prayer and fasting during daylight hours.
"It's always the non-Christians that have the best time," Kugler says. "The Muslim students are usually breaking their fast from Ramadan and they always clean out my cupboards!" There is also a "kosher corner" in Kugler's dining room including goodies from Seven Mile Market in Pikesville for students who observe dietary laws, Kugler says.
"There is a unique feeling of connectedness between the students and that's what makes it special," Kugler says.
For Kugler, hors d'oeuvres are just the beginning of her role as chaplain and chef. At 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan.24, in the Bunting Meyerhoff Interfaith and Community Center on the corner of North Charles Street and University Parkway, she'll host her semi-annual chili dinner for resident advisers.
Kugler says the chili dinners started as a lark when she began her tenure as Johns Hopkins' chaplain in 1993. Familiar with the stresses of the job as former resident adviser herself, she decided to feed the RAs on campus.
"RAs live and breathe creating community here on campus," Kugler says. "So it was a way for them to relax while also breaking their misconceptions about me as a religious leader."
The dinners were so successful that Kugler now hosts the annual holiday party for the Interfaith Council in addition to the party for the RAs. Preparations for making the hors d'oeuvres and the huge pots of meat, white bean and vegetarian chili begin three to four days ahead of time. It's a lot of work, Kugler says, but celebrating the season with students from various cultures makes it all worth while.
"It's really pretty simple: It's about cooking good chili and sharing it," Kugler says. "It's soul food."
For more information or to attend either of the parties and speak with Kugler and members of the Interfaith Council, call Amy Cowles at 410-516-7800.
Related Web site including Kugler's biography and a link to her chili recipes ... jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu/~chaplain/
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