If most college students were asked to describe a nun, they would most likely give a vague description of older women dressed in black operating under strict moral guidelines, passing judgement on those who don’t carry themselves similarly. Like many stereotypes, this one becomes woefully inaccurate when applied to the work that the people at Transformations Spirituality Center are doing in the Kalamazoo community, which in it’s entirety is based the inclusion of all, regardless of background.
“I think it’s important that people know how inclusive we are,” Michelle Gossman, director at Transformations Spirituality Center said. “And it’s not because of disavowing our Catholic roots here, it’s because of those roots that we reach out to other people.”
One program that cuts to the heart of this message is Nuns and Nones, which brings together Nuns with people who identify as ‘None’ when asked their religious affiliation. Rather than have one group try to convince the other of their views, the workshops are meant to give people a chance to see they aren’t as different as they may initially think.
“When they come together, you have this group of people who on the surface might not look like they have a lot in common, but by the end of a few hours there’s just sparks going off. Not only do they find that they have things in common, but they actually like each other,” Gossman said. “Getting these groups together really powerful ways to get groups together and figure what it is that we really want to see where we live, what kinds of things are important to us, what justice looks like.”
The idea of justice plays a big hand in what the people at Transformations Spirituality Center are trying to accomplish as well, hosting several upcoming events that focus on gaining an understanding of issues in the past that are still relevant today. Two documentaries they plan on showing, “the Inheritance” and “Harlem County USA,” focus on immigration and right to work issues from America’s past, specifically Ellis Island and Coal Mine Worker strikes from the 70’s respectively. While it can be easy to dismiss such events as irrelevant in today’s society, the issues at the core of them are still a topic of hot debate today.
“We think about this stuff as being from a long time ago, but these issues are still coming up today. We show these films not to pick sides but to show the history of where these movements and issues grew from,” Gossman said. “It’s also helpful to know that other people have grappled with issues such as these and where they’re coming from.”
While keeping the theme of understanding issues for the past, the center is also hosting a concert and workshop from folk band Windborne, who have spent their careers studying songs of struggle at different points in world history to get an understanding of what motivated the people who sang them, and what people today can learn from such struggle.
“There was music that came out of these tumultuous times. What does it mean? Where do they come from? What were the social conditions?” Gossman said. “They’ve gone back to these times of real social struggle to find what the songs of the people were.”
Transformations Spirituality Center is located at 3427 Gull Road, Kalamazoo MI 49048. The next Nuns and Nones program will be on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. “Harlem County, USA” and “The Inheritance” will have screenings on Thursday, Oct. 19 and Thursday, Oct. 26 respectively. Windborne will be hosting a workshop on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. with a performance that evening at 7 p.m. Everyone, regardless of background religious or otherwise, is welcome.