Luther House expands service activities

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Photo by Yale Daily News.

This year, members of Dwight Hall are turning a 9-bedroom house on High Street, into a social justice-themed community.

The house belongs to the Luther House, a campus ministry organization that coordinates weekly Lutheran religious services and tutoring. Starting next fall, nine service-minded Yale students will move into the house as a part of Dwight Hall’s efforts to expand its relationship with the Luther House by creating a social justice-themed community.

“At Yale I think it’ll get a lot of the campus to realize that the ground works of community service is still a very prominent part of the Yale experience for a good portion of the student body,” said Sterling Johnson ’15, Dwight Hall’s co-coordinator. “When in discussions of campus culture, students act as though community service groups aren’t a collective body on campus, when they really are.”

Members of the new social justice community will each work on an individual project and collaborate to coordinate service projects within the house, Johnson said. Future residents interested in food sustainability have already made plans to create a community garden in the backyard, and others have expressed interest in hosting speakers in the living room, he added.

While the Luther House organization runs Lutheran worship services, members of the house are not expected to participate in religious activities, Rev. Kari Henkelmann Keyl — the pastor living in the Luther House — said, adding that putting religious and non-religious members in conversation with one another will be mutually beneficial for both communities.

“I think having that kind of community is a beautiful thing to have alongside a religious community because that’s the way it is in the world,” Keyl said. “We’re always alongside people of different faiths and different beliefs, so I think the two can benefit one another.”

The Luther House’s latest service venture is born out of the organization’s long-standing relationship with Dwight Hall. The groups have previously collaborated on tutoring services and YHHAP, said Keyl.

Creating a social justice community in the house is a natural progression from Dwight Hall’s existing partnership with the Luther House, said Morrison.

The Luther House organization has already accepted six people to occupy the house next year, a group that comprises a combination of Yale undergraduate and graduate students, Johnson said. Most applicants for the remaining three positions are graduate students from the Divinity and law schools who are seeking to further their community involvement and escape the high cost of living in housing owned by Pike International, he added.

Dwight Hall members attribute the high proportion of graduate students applying to live in the Luther House to its central location and the opportunity to work in fields that the students are considering entering upon graduation, Morrison said.

The house will also host weekly meetings with facilitated discussion or speakers who are working in New Haven on a variety of social justice issues, said Drew Morrison ’14, a member of both Dwight Hall and the Luther House organization.

“I think the best part is that you don’t have to have meetings to make things happen,” said Nikki Feldman ’15, an undergraduate living in the Luther House next year. “Because you’re all living together, projects will happen organically.”

The Luther House has been home to the Lutheran on-campus church for about 60 years.

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