The “Jesus” seminar, an event held annually in the university’s new Russell Student Centre, has drawn huge crowds since it first began in 2015.
The theme of the first-ever event was “God, love, compassion, justice” and the participants, who were invited to participate in a panel discussion, ranged from prominent Australians such as Archbishop Denis Hart, to American evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress and the Rev Dr Richard Wilkins.
“It was a very open and accessible seminar,” Professor Matthew Smith, the University’s Dean of Students, said.
“There was a great amount of cross-cultural engagement, a lot of discussion about issues of global justice and peace and human rights, and also about Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus.”
The “Jesuism” seminar was the brainchild of Dr Martin Marques, who is also the chair of the Russell Student Union, the student body for the Russell Centre, and the head of the University Research and Learning Centre (URIAC).
Dr Marques has also been the head coach of the Adelaide Youth Football Club.
Professor Marques said the idea for the “Jesus seminar” was sparked by a friend who was inspired by a presentation he saw at a university event and decided to create a seminar specifically for Russell students.
“I said, ‘I want to start a seminar for Russellians in Australia,’ and they were all so excited,” he said.
The event has since become one of the most popular in Australia.
Professor Smith said there was no specific programme for the event but the idea was to “provide a place where people can learn from one another and have a good time”.
“We’re trying to get people who are interested in learning about faith, who want to share the Gospel and share their views,” he added.
The “Jesus Seminar” at the Russell University, Melbourne, in 2018.
Professor Matthew Smith said the event drew massive crowds.(ABC News: Luke Gorman)The Russell Seminar was started by the Russell Students Union in 2016 and the Russell School of Business is also involved in the event.
Russell student Luke Gormley said he had been interested in the idea since his first visit to the university in 2011.
“We had a student who said she was interested in religion but didn’t have a place to pray in the student lounge,” he explained.
“So I said, let’s have a campus-wide seminar.”
Students were invited for a “Jesus-themed” panel discussion and the session was moderated by Dr Marquez.
Mr Gormly said the “Judeo-Christian” theme of “Jesus is the only way to love and justice” was one that resonated with him.
“The speakers were very well-known and people were talking about how they would change the world for the better,” he noted.
“They were all very respectful, so it was a lot more fun than I expected it to be.”
Mr Gorman said he found the event to be a great experience for Russell University students and students of all faiths.
“In the end, it was just about the students getting together and having a good laugh,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“Everyone was very happy.
We all laughed and talked about it, so we just sort of sat back and enjoyed the experience.”
Dr Marquez said he was delighted that the event was drawing a large audience.
“This is one of those occasions where people just have to be able to talk and feel comfortable and enjoy each other’s company,” he observed.
“As long as it’s not too heated, there’s no problem.”