Julianna Lewis ’18 is calling her new Christian student group the Bowdoin Inklings. The name is a nod to a group of writers and scholars at Oxford University — including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — who gathered together in the 1930s and 1940s to discuss theology, their writing and other issues.
“The new Bowdoin Inklings has a wonderful heritage upon which to start,” said Rev. Robert Ives, Bowdoin’s director of spiritual and religious life. He added, “I am sure the Bowdoin Inklings will meet the needs of many of our Bowdoin students, and I am deeply pleased to have them on campus.”
Lewis said she launched the group this year because she felt the college needed a space in which students could explore their religious beliefs and questions. “It’s a discussion space for people seeking to discover more about their faith,” Lewis explained. She added that the group would not shy from talking about particularly divisive issues in the church today, including homosexuality, women’s rights and evolution.
Lewis grew up mostly in Nashville, Tenn. Her mother and her father are both devout Christians; her father teaches political science at Vanderbilt University. Her family made a point of attending church together on Sundays, using the walk back home as a chance to discuss and debate the sermon they had just heard. Through this family tradition, Lewis said she became comfortable grappling with Christian ideas and disagreeing at times with her church’s teachings.
She now wants to help other students feel safe engaging in what can be a turbulent personal process. “Bowdoin is a difficult place to be messy in,” she said. “I felt the campus needed somewhere where students could figure out how they think and feel about their faith, a place where they can come with half-formed ideas and also think on their feet.”
In Bowdoin Inklings’ weekly meetings, Lewis said she plans to offer readings by Christian theologians who have thought about how the Bible applies to modern-day issues. She said what is most important to her is that the group fosters a “respectful” conversation.
Bowdoin Inklings joins several other faith groups on campus, including the Catholic Student Union, Circle, Muslim Students’ Association, Bowdoin Quakers, Bowdoin Orthodox Association, Bowdoin Hillel, Bowdoin Community Gospel Choir, and the Christian Fellowship at Bowdoin, which meets off campus at the Joseph and Alice McKeen Christian Studies Center.