At Phillips Exeter, a World of Religious Diversity

By Mark Oppenheimer

EXETER, N.H. — “Money, prestige, success — they have become slave masters,” Milton Syed, a slight 18-year-old from the Bronx, told his audience. He was wearing a necktie with his collared shirt, as required by the dress code here at Phillips Exeter Academy, alma mater of Daniel Webster and Franklin Pierce, of Gore Vidal and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Mr. Syed, a senior, was preaching a khutbah, the Friday sermon after Muslim prayers, to a group of 10, including several fellow Muslim students, a Muslim math teacher and a blond girl who was not Muslim, just curious.

“Once you are in your grave,” Mr. Syed continued, “Allah is going to ask you, ‘What did you do with your life?’ ”

I was visiting in late March, on a rainy, northern New England Friday. Friday is the busy day at Phillips Church, the spiritual hub of Exeter, as this boarding school is known. On Sunday morning, there are Protestant sermons here, by the school minister. But Friday is when the Muslim students pray (and then have lunch), when the Jewish students bless Shabbat candles (then have dinner), and when the Buddhist students meditate (then have evening tea). There is Bible study for Christians on Friday evening, too. [Read more...]

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