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Academically Fascinated by Religion

Anne Lynch is studying to be a minister

Photo of Anne Lynch by Abbey Becker

When Anne Lynch, BA religious studies ’12, came to AU, she was a practicing Buddhist. But all that changed in her junior year, when she got very sick and could barely get out of bed. “I ended up being taken care of by the United Methodists on campus,” says Lynch. “I pretty much lived in Kay Spiritual Life Center as it was; it’s really like a big family down there.”

After she recovered, Lynch delved into the study of Christianity not just as an academic pursuit, but also as a personal interest. She decided to convert to Christianity, and her new plan was to become a Methodist minister. “I guess I just got hooked. I had already been thinking about how it would be wonderful to do something like chaplaincy,” Lynch explains. “I’d spent so much time in Kay, and the chaplains were the most incredible people I’d ever met.”

And so the erstwhile film major became acquainted with the Department of Philosophy and Religion and switched to a newly formed religious studies major. “I love the department with all of my heart,” she says. “It’s a small group, but they are spectacular people who work really hard.”

She’s quick to emphasize that to be a religious studies major, you don’t have to be religious yourself. “I know plenty of religious studies majors who are religious, and I know plenty who aren’t,” she explains. “They’re just academically fascinated. That’s where I come at it from. I am religious, but that’s very different from my academic interest in religion.”

While she identifies herself as a Methodist now, she doesn’t think she’d have ever considered converting if it weren’t for her experiences with Buddhism. “Even though I consider myself a Christian now, I still have Buddhist-colored lenses, so to speak,” she says. “There’s a part in the Bible where Jesus talks about loving your enemies. When I read that, I thought about a Buddhist chant that emphasizes the same thing.”

When she decided to make the change—she’d originally wanted to direct animated movies—Lynch couldn’t believe it herself. “I was completely flabbergasted,” she says. “It took me a long time to put it all together and be okay with it.”

She’s now planning to eventually attend seminary and work her way toward becoming a university chaplain. “I want to help young adults, specifically in college,” says Lynch. “It’s just such a stressful period of life, but it’s also such an incredible time period to be living through. I want to be in service in some way to young adults going through this period in their lives.”

Lynch is interested in exploring the social justice angle of religion on college campuses based on her experiences at American. She attended an alternative spring break trip to Cherokee nation that’s led by the United Methodists. “I think the entire alternative break program at AU was started through Kay,” she says. “I love it especially because it’s not just for United Methodists; it’s for whoever’s interested. Having that broad-minded, you-don’t-have-to-be-in-the-club attitude—that’s something really attractive to me.”

Overall, what’s most important to Lynch is making everyone feel welcome, like she’s felt here at AU. “In Kay, it doesn’t matter what religion you are—you’re a part of the family,” Lynch explains. “At the moment that you’re willing to take that step forward, other people tend to be willing to take that step forward too.”