“Rhythm of community”: Combatting stress through music

All students are welcome to the weekly drum circles in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre.

The Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre is home to weekly community drum circles. Irene Feher, a Concordia University music professor, and Dylan Gitalis, who is learning facilitation techniques from a program with Music for People, both lead the event. Feher teaches voice, and joined the Drum Circle last year. The ultimate goal of these weekly music jams is to combat stress and isolation, and to build community.

“I believe so strongly in the power of music to enrich lives in so many ways,” Feher said. “Drumming grounds us, connects us, and the physical activity [is good for the body]. I feel the physical, emotional, cognitive and social benefits of drumming.”

Every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m., students from all programs are welcome to this event.

Although the event takes place in the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre, Feher said that the drum sessions are secular.

“We use the universal language of music, and don’t practice any particular style,” said Feher.

Feher continued that they don’t necessarily drum in Indigenous or African style, although the students are using African drums.

Feher explained that students attending the event use the “rhythm of community,” and the drumming styles emerge spontaneously, with the moment.

“I want us to reflect the mosaic at Concordia, this wonderful community we have of people from different religions and backgrounds,” said Feher.

The event usually garners around 10 to 12 students, but the room has the capacity for about 20 people.

Using drum circles as a therapeutic form of stress-relief has been studied before. One 2010 research paper published in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy found that more than half of drum circle participants – who were all young adults in school – reported that their drum circle group helped the participants with stress, anger and lack of motivation. The same study found that some of the participants reported “therapeutic gains” in terms of their self-confidence and self-esteem.

“It’s an opportunity for students to come together, release their stress, have fun, and create sound in the moment,” said Feher. Feher explained that drum circles and music have been used for thousands of years to foster community.

When students engage in this activity, they eventually reach a state of flow, as Feher explained. Also known as “being in the zone,” when someone reaches that stage, they are extremely focussed on what they’re doing, and are no longer thinking about their everyday stresses.

“When you are completely engaged and immersed in an activity you enjoy, you become completely engaged in the present moment, and time slips away,” said Feher.

Feher explained when one is in a state of flow with a group of people, a connection is created between all of them; from there, students become freer to try different rhythms.

No previous experience in music is required in order to participate in the activity. There is no registration and the event is completely free. The weekly drum circles will be running until April 6, 2020.


Graphic by Salomé Blain


Concordia students make meals for people in need

Concordia University’s Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre (MFSC) held the first Multi-Faith: Meals to the Streets event of 2020 in the Z Annex on Jan. 21.

The event, which has been taking place monthly throughout the school year since approximately 2010, gathers students from all faiths and cultures to cook and distribute healthy meals to the homeless.

“Meals to the Streets is an opportunity for us to make food together, build friendships, and put something back into the community,” said Ashely Crouch, who has been the MFSC’s Interfaith Facilitator since 2017.

Meals to the Streets was originally started by the previous Interfaith Facilitator, Laura Gallo, and different religious student groups.

“They wanted to do something positive and decided this outreach program was a great day to do that,” said Crouch. She explained that she kept the program going when she took over the position because the feedback from students was so positive.

Each time the event is held, about 15 to 20 students collaborate to make 80 to 100 burritos and muffins, which they put together into paper lunch bags with a juice box or a banana.

“We’re not solving issues of homelessness or poverty, but we’re enabling students to go out, interact with people, understand their situation, and provide them with a warm meal for the day,” said Crouch.

Crouch encourages students to use the Meals to the Streets event as an opportunity to have conversations with the homeless people they are giving meals to and learn their stories.

“I’m interested in getting to talk to people who have fewer resources and less luck in life, to see why they are there and what they think about their situation. I think it’s a nice action,” said Jules Dourson, who attended the event for the first time.

Crouch hopes this kind of event will change the perceptions people have of the homeless by helping them understand the different reasons they might end up in these situations.

“When you’re giving the lunches and interacting with people, sometimes it’s the first time someone’s talking to them in days,” said Kaye-Anne Bunting, a fourth-year undergraduate student who was volunteering with the MFSC for the third time. “It’s nice to interact personally with them and offer something and let them know there are people in the wider community that care about them.”

Meals to the Streets is also an opportunity for students to learn about direct ways to help the homeless.

“If you live on the streets, the first thing to go is your dental care, so a lot of homeless people have trouble eating harder food,” said Crouch, which is why the students make soft burritos. She added that many people donate processed foods, so she believes the healthy vegan burrito is a nice change.

This year, the MFSC is partnering with Community COMPASS and the LIVE Centre to help them have conversations with students about long-term solutions to homelessness as opposed to quick fixes.

It’s a little step, it’s not going to stop starvation, but maybe having a connection with someone will help lighten their day,” said Dourson.

In addition to connecting with people in the street, Meals to the Streets is an opportunity for students to interact with each other and make new friends.

“I think it’s good for student life to do things that are good for the community because it fosters closeness between them,” said Bunting, who appreciates meeting people from different faculties and countries and learning about them at these events.

“It’s nice to talk to people from different cultures, and I’m looking forward to connecting with people in the streets as well,” said Dourson.

Crouch hopes that students who volunteer at Meals to the Streets learn something and have conversations with others to change their perceptions of homeless people. “And if after that they want to get involved in soup kitchens and legislation, then that’s even better,” she said.

The next Multi-Faith: Meals to the Streets event will take place on Feb. 18 at the Multi-Faith and Spiritual Centre’s office in the Z Annex, 2090 Mackay St.


Photos by Laurence B.D.

Student Life

A non-believer embraces faith

Secular students find value in wisdom and practices of faith traditions

An atheist looking for guidance among religious people may seem ironic at first. Some students that frequent Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre (MFSC), like Nicolas Chevalier, identify as non-believers but still derive benefits from being involved.

Chevalier admits that he had some reservations about Christianity and other religions, but was still curious about them. “At the same time, faith can be something that brings people together, and that is something that is clearly lacking in our society,” he said.

Chevalier met Ashely Crouch, the interfaith facilitator at the MFSC, through a mutual friend. Chevalier often attends events put on by Sustainable Concordia, and since it shares the same building as the MFSC, he ended up participating in a few events there as well. Chevalier considers himself an atheist, yet his involvement with environmental activism complicates that perspective. “With my environmental background, I do believe everything is connected. We’re not just here in a cold existence to reap everything from the earth,” he said.

In all his intersectional organizing and activism efforts, Chevalier tries not to take a “finger pointing” perspective. He said he is drawn to similarities in how interfaith communities create respectful dialogue, even when they disagree.

Chevalier’s family is Christian, but they rarely went to church during his childhood. So while he didn’t know much about religion growing up, Chevalier was never anti-religious, and was always respectful of people’s faith.

A turning point came when his mother passed away from lung cancer about four years ago. It so happened that his family’s neighbour was a priest. “He would come in and he would talk about nothing and everything, in a way that was very comforting. That was definitely something that helped change my view about people who have faith,” Chevalier said.

The role of the campus chaplain at Concordia has been constantly evolving to reflect the changing religious beliefs of the student body, said Ellie Hummel, the chaplain and coordinator at the MFSC.

The chapel at Loyola College became an ecumenical place of worship when Loyola joined with Sir George William College to form Concordia in 1974. The chaplaincy gradually grew to embrace the increasing number of non-Christian students coming to Concordia, becoming multi-faith.

In the last 19 years, since Hummel has been at Concordia, spiritual yet non-religious people have also been welcomed. “We are adjusting our language more,” Hummel said. “We realized there are people who name themselves as secular and humanist, and we want them to know they are included.”

“People could have their typical view of ‘oh, it’s a preacher person just coming here to push their religion’ and that’s not at all what I get from either Ellie or Ashely,” Chevalier said. “They invite people in to come as they are, whether they have faith or not.”

Chevalier thinks the main issue with organized religion is that concentrating power in an institution eventually leads to the people running it being corrupted by that power.

The MFSC’s approach to cultivating a faith-based community is more informal and non-hierarchical. Crouch became the interfaith facilitator at the MFSC a little over a year ago. She said that a lot of new students, when they come to the MFSC for the first time, ask about how they can join. “You don’t have to join, you just belong, you’re just here,” Crouch said. “It’s very intentionally kept that way.

Ultimately, compared to what capitalism and consumer culture offer in terms of living a fulfilled life, Chevalier said he sees a lot of good things coming out of the multifaith chaplaincy. However, he doesn’t necessarily see his participation as political.

“In the traditional politics type of sense, I don’t see it like that, I just see it as people sharing ideas” Chevalier said. “[But] some of my friends who are stronghold atheists would go ‘why are you even talking with these people?’”

While the MFSC offers varied programing, from drumming circles to meditation groups, Hummel said the most important thing they offer is simply the space—a place where people can just drop in and talk to religious people.

“[It] helps you […] realize that you can live with people who don’t necessarily agree and to have a respect around those sorts of things,” Crouch said. “Everybody can grow from that.”

Feature image by Kenneth Gibson

Student Life

The media: broad term, broader impacts

The Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre hosted a discussion on the media’s role in people’s lives

Rev. Paul Anyidoho, a member of Concordia’s Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, hosted a seminar to explore the benefits and disadvantages of social media in our lives on Oct. 20.

The event welcomed 12 guests and was held in a small and cozy meditation room at the Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre. The event was structured as an open discussion, where speakers and guests could express their thoughts on social media, media usage, and how it is perceived and used in people’s daily lives.

The discussion took place at Concordia’s Multi-Faith and Spirituality centre. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Throughout the afternoon discussion, guests shared personal experiences regarding their relationship with media. Some of the guests, mostly young adults, said they used and consumed technology and media so much in their daily lives that they couldn’t imagine living without it. Other guests said they either used social media sparingly, or not at all.

The crowd presented a variety of opinions and experiences in a discussion about the core issues of privacy, informational integrity, and a balance of positive thoughts and negative thoughts concerning this technology-driven world.

Anyidoho defined media as any “virtual space.”  This includes social media networks, television stations, large-scale news outlets and even something as simple as a phone call.  Media is important to most people, said Anyidoho, and so it is a topic worth knowing and exploring as much about as possible.

Anyidoho placed emphasis on the “uses and gratifications theory” of media interaction, which explores how and why people actively consume media to satisfy certain needs.  

“People don’t sit in front of the TV, read the newspaper or go on the Internet just to retrieve information,” Anyidoho said. “They are actually engaging the media in a way that will be useful and satisfy their expectations, to get gratification.”

He believes that this theory is important in the modern age in order to get the best out of what he calls the “two sides of the coin” of the media.

“[The media] has a very beneficiary, useful effect on people…now, you can just access information from anywhere in the world.”

Anyidoho said he believes social media’s strengths lie in its ability to increase global connectivity, strengthen personal relationships and ease learning.

However, the media also has a flipside, Anyidoho said, adding that he believes most forms of media can have bias when it comes to reporting on news, which leads to less focus on the truth, or even a blur of what is the truth. He said people need to be more careful and critical in the way they intake information by not being so quick to believe everything they hear or read.

Anyidoho also expressed concern over how much time younger generations commit to modern technology and social media. Studies vary, but on average, according to a 2015 Common Sense Media report, millennials spend anywhere from nine to 18 hours a day consuming media.

Anyidoho also described how incorrect or misunderstood information on social media “spreads like a spiral, a breeze,” and can cause stress in people’s lives.

Anyidoho concluded by saying using media responsibly is important, especially now that it’s a much bigger part of our lives. “We used to bring our life over to our religious places, to our doctors, to psychologists, now we bring it to the media,” he said.

As media plays a major role in entertainment, news gathering and personal connections, Anyidoho said education and discussion are important in order to make the best possible use of this innovation.

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