Grace Jordan, arts and living editor
The Rome community is home to many places of worship and has as many as 159 holy places. According to a poll done by the Campus Carrier, about 70% students are religious. But even with so many religious students it can be hard to find one that’s a right fit, especially for those who are new to Berry and haven’t fully settled in. Sophomore religion major Hannah McDonald has experience with numerous churches in Rome and has advice for those who are struggling to find a place of worship that fits their needs.
“I have learned a lot about the different churches in Rome from my experience church hopping,” McDonald said. “I haven’t been to all of them, but I’ve tried to go to a wide array of them.”
Before one decides on which place of worship to visit, a big concern is who to go with. Most students don’t want to go to church alone, but they also might not have anyone to go with. According to McDonald, going alone is an option, and one doesn’t need to be friends with church goers to find someone to go with.
“Some people might not feel comfortable with this, but you can go to church alone,” McDonald said. “I did it this past Sunday and it wasn’t as weird and scary as I thought it would be. People were extremely welcoming, they were excited to see a new person. And if not, I’m always asking people where they go to church and what’s it like and if I can join them. There’s so many people who would love to tell you about the church they’re involved in.”
Then, the question is where to go. Two churches stood out to McDonald, one of which is a church named Seven Hills Fellowship. According to McDonald, the church is well liked among college students.
“A church that has stood out to me would be Seven Hills,” McDonald said. “It’s a very popular church among Berry students, half of the church on Sunday is filled with college students. It’s an intentional community; there’s a lot of opportunities for college students to get plugged in. I know the pastor is super intentional, he tries to go out to coffee with every single new member that really wants to go to Seven Hills. That’s a great place to go to if you’re looking to expand your community with other college students as well as form connections with the older members of the body of Christ.”
Seven Hills Fellowship is a casual church where most don’t feel the need to dress up too much, according to McDonald.
“It’s fairly casual,” McDonald said. “Most people do dress up like a little bit, but you’d probably be fine in jeans and a nice shirt.”
Further, students might be hesitant to go to new places of worship due to not knowing what to wear. McDonald says most churches in Rome are relaxed on their dress code.
“You don’t have to go full suit and tie,” McDonald said. “I haven’t been to a church yet that is quite that formal. Most churches in Rome are semi-formal, come as you are.”
If students are looking for a more traditional church, McDonald says Trinity United Methodist Church might be the right one for them. According to McDonald, this church is not as popular among Berry students and offers a more traditional approach to the Christian faith.
“Another church I went to that’s not very popular with college students is Trinity United Methodist Church,” McDonald said. “It’s a little more denominationally structured. The service is more traditional, students that had a traditional upbringing might enjoy that more, but there is a choir. All the music comes from the hymn book and the dress code is slightly more formal.”
Church is not the only place of worship one will find in Rome. Anne Lewinson, associate professor of anthropology and current chair of the Interfaith Council, is a member of the Rodeph Sholom Congregation, a reform synagogue.
“The Synanogue is a very small community, probably 15 or so active families,” Lewinson said. “It is not orthodox worship, it’s in the reform movement. We don’t follow all of the traditions and rituals.”
If one is interested in going to one of the services at Rodeph Sholom Congregation, Lewinson advises to send a message via their website, sharing your interest in the synagogue.
“The best thing to do is to go to the website and send a message,” Lewinson said. “Say ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m a Jewish student at Berry and I would like to come to Yom Kippur services. When are they?’ That way the president or vice president of the synagogue can get in touch.”
According to Lewinson, the dress code is casual and the people are welcoming.
“We are very happy to have Berry students,” Lewinson said. “If there are Jewish students who are looking for a place to go for worship we are delighted to include them and they’ll probably get invited to someone’s house for dinner. People usually dress reasonably tidy, my daughter wears jeans. People show up in pretty much anything that’s reasonably tidy.”
One can find a QR code in the religious life glass case in Krannert of all churches in Rome. The website for Rodeph Sholom Congregation is rodephsholomrome.org.