Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 9:04 pm

The Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice will hold an open house to introduce the campus and community to their new home on Monday, Oct. 30. The free and public event will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the new building, 913 Eighth Ave., Grinnell. There will be refreshments.

The CRSSJ is an inter-religious space for prayer, worship, critical thinking and dialogue on Grinnell College’s campus. Its facilities and services, such as the Prayer Garage (a neutral worship and meeting space), Muslim and Hindu prayer spaces, support groups and more, are open to everyone.

“I want to invite people to see what an inter-religious, or multi-religious space is like. I think that makes it a unique place, and I hope people will take us up on the invitation,” says Deanna Shorb, dean of religious life at Grinnell College. “I want the CRSSJ to be seen as a place that is open for community visits. We like to think that we’re very welcoming, and we hope that’s true for everyone: faculty, staff, students and townsfolk.”

This is the third iteration of the CRSSJ, which has been part of Grinnell College for fifteen years. The space was moved from its former location on Park Street to make room for the construction of a new admission and financial aid building. Staff began moving into the new building this summer. While the new building is differently shaped than the old CRSSJ, the prayer spaces inside are duplicative, meaning the building did not lose any important rooms. 

“While it took a little bit of time to adjust to the new space, I think that the re-located CRSSJ has some significant advantages to it. The new house has most of the study areas and meeting rooms of the old space while having more accessible entrances and bathrooms,” says Jon Mehlhaus, class of 2019. “I associate the CRSSJ with the friends I've met and wonderful people who work there, so in a lot of ways it feels as if not a lot has changed. It is and always has been a welcoming space for me to grow and explore religious life at Grinnell.”

The new CRSSJ features several key improvements to the old building. The building is fully accessible during business hours through a door on the west side of the building, and a ramp that goes into the back prayer garage space. There is a fully accessible bathroom on site as well.

The CRSSJ has also expanded the size of the Muslim and Hindu prayer and cultural spaces, which students and cultural groups have been encouraged to assist in choosing decor. For now, the Hindu prayer space includes several cushions and a Ganesh. The Muslim prayer space includes rugs for prayer times, comfortable furniture for gatherings and students hope to engage a classmate to design a tapestry to beautify the walls. There is also a footbath in the bathroom, which is connected by a doorway to the Muslim prayer room to make it easier for Muslim students to wash their feet before entering the room to pray. Both of these rooms include both prayer and social areas, allowing them to function dually as worship and cultural spaces.

“The new space has been great,” says Farah Omer, class of 2019 and co-leader of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). “We met there a few times this semester. We are currently working on decorating and furnishing the MSA suite. Deanna has been exceptionally great about incorporating our input in that process, which shows her commitment to making sure the students feel welcome in the space.”

In order to increase the size of these prayer rooms, the multi-religious library and meditative space decreased in size, but it is still accessible to all students. The new building also comes with an expanded kitchen that is fully accessible to students during office hours. After hours, students may use the coffeemaker and eat snacks stocked in the student lounge area of the CRSSJ. 

The Lending Library has found its permanent home in the renovated basement of the new CRSSJ. Students who qualify as low-income through financial aid have access to the more than 4,000 books stored in the collection. Since the program started a year ago, it has more than doubled in book volume and tripled in usage with over 100 students now taking advantage of the library. The lending library is also equipped with several tables, chairs and armchairs to foster quiet studying.  

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information about parking and accessibility is available on the college's website: Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

The college also welcomes the presence of minors at all age-appropriate public events and for informal visits, with the understanding that a parent, legal guardian, or other responsible adult assumes full responsibility for their child’s safety and behavior during such visits or events. In these cases the college expects that an adult responsible for the visiting child takes measures to ensure the child’s safety and sees that the child complies with directions of college personnel. Grinnell College is not responsible for supervision of minors on campus.

Deanna Shorb hangs prayer flags outside the new CRSSJ

Photo by Govind Brahmanyapura ’21.


About Grinnell College
Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at