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Religion, Christianity, Ohio, Hare Krishna, Spirituality 
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This project documents the pursuit of faith of America’s diverse youth – be it Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, or simply meditation- and shows a contemporary youth religious movement that promises hope and peace for generations to come.
James Prichard

2000 — student runner-up

In the wake of school shootings that have focused much of the U.S. public’s attention on gun control and public school safety, America’s youth are quietly finding their own answers- not in policy, but in spirituality. My proposal is to document their pursuit of faith – be it Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, or simply meditation- and show a contemporary youth religious movement that promises hope and peace for generations to come.

My documentary focuses on young people, ages 10 to 25. Observers say that the youth and young adults of today’s society are more accepting of and interested in spirituality than previous generations. Through my photographs, the faces and actions of the members of this new religious movement will give deeper dimension to these findings.

Some say that this youth religious movement is motivated by fear, stemming from Columbine and the subsequent rash of school shootings across the nation. While Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold may have seared their images onto the nation’s collective conscience, Cassie Bernall more accurately represents her generation. Bernall, who was killed at Columbine after professing her belief in God, is hailed by U/S/ religious leaders as a hero.

Bernall’s spirituality is not an exception. “Christianly and Judaism, the two ancient bulwarks of Western religion, are attracting increased interest among the millions of Americans ages 19 to 35. But while this generation’s spirit is willing, it remains to be seen whether the flesh is able, as far as religious practice goes”. Insight on the News columnist Michael Rust observed in 1998. “’Generation x’-the post baby boomers born in the late 1960s and 1970s- was reared in the transient culture of divorce, absentee parenting, media saturation, frequent changes in residence and laissez-faire ethics. Many are searching for an alternative”. In addition, Rev. Susan Astarita, an Episcopal minister at the University of Maryland, told the Associated Press that same year that students are less cynical and discovering bigger questions that the secular life can't answer. Michael Kress, in an August 1999 Publisher’s Weekly article, put it this way: “Gen-Xers may disdain rituals and rules, but they are consumed by their search for spirituality and the transcendent, albeit on their own terms and in their own ways”.

One of these ways can be seen in Chauncy, Ohio, where I am currently working on a picture story about Wendell Humphrey, a Native American Shaman who, each month, leads about a dozen college students from around the region in sweat-lodge ceremonies. Additionally, I belong to a Presbyterian U.S.S. church in downtown Seattle that broke away from the traditional church to offer Gen-Xers a new style of music and worship. “Recognizing the emerging culture of postmodernism, we wanted to establish a church that could speak to the postmodern culture without in any way compromising the timeless content of the gospel,” said the Rev. Dr. Randy Rowland of the Seattle Church. “ I am convinced that the Christian church needs to adopt a more missional approach to being the church in postmodern culture”.

These are but two of the many contacts I have already made for this documentary I intend to pursue. I am excited about the possibilities for the project and intend to work on it for at least the next calendar year.

It is my hope that the values of my generation and the next will serve to better this nation and help create an attitude that promotes acceptance of our differences, not only through its ever-expanding concept of spirituality, but also through the path of peace that members of this youth religious movement are taking. I would be honored to have the Alexia Foundation support me in this endeavor and thank you for your consideration.

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Bhakta Aaron, 22, dances with devotees during a Sunday service in the temple. The celebration precedes a large feast of prasadam, or holy food. Aaron grew up in Wheeling as the son of a Presbyterian minister and is now a member of the Hare Krishna movement. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Japa Baeds: There are 108 beads made from the Tusli tree on the devotee's strand of Japa beads. The maha mantra is repeated once for each bead on the strand and a round is completed by going through the entire strand. A true and holy devotee must do at least 16 rounds per day. This totals 1,728 chants of the mantra. The Bhaktas begin this process at 3:30 a.m. every morning. The mantra: "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare."

Tusli was a pure female devotee of Krishna. As she was about to die, she had but one wish of Krishna. She wanted to come back as a small plant or tree growing at his feet. It is this tree that provides the wood for the Japa beads. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Bhakta Kurtis, 20, finishes putting the Telock, mud from the Ganges River, on the final of seven spots on his body before putting on his dhoti, the pink traditional clothing seen. The Ganges is believed to be a holy and celestial river flowing through the universe and its mud is considered sacred. The pink dhotis, as seen on the bhaktas, or monks in training, are worn by celibate devotees. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Bhakta Vhaktivedanta serves the mid-day prasadam, vegetarian food first offered to and blessed by Krishna. The remainder, not consumed by Krishna, is then eaten by devotees. Vhaktivedanta was born and raised in the Krishna movement. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Bhakta Aaron studies in the designated study room identical and adjacent to his living quarters. He listens to tapes of holy men and reads. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Elizabeth Figel, 21, of St. Clairsville, West Virginia, studies her Bible between math and physics classes. The math major at Ohio University attends a local Assemblies of God Church and wants to go into full-time ministry. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Much of Elizabeth's worship of Jesus comes through singing and raising her hands up to God. She attends New Life Assembly of God Church in Athens, Ohio, regularly for two services on Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meetings. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Elizabeth moves into the aisle during church to pray while others remain in their seats. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Elizabeth prays after lunch outside her home in Wheeling, West Virginia. Elizabeth has known God her whole life. After a short period of "walking away from God," she dedicated her life to following Jesus again at age 18. Her father is a minister who, at one time, held large tent revivals throughout West Virginia and the surrounding areas. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation
Elizabeth plays with her Maltese dog, Hanna, during her visit home. A tape with Christian music plays on the television. Elizabeth tries to avoid secular television and radio as much as possible. She listens to Christian CDs in her car and carefully guards what she watches on TV. James Prichard/Alexia Foundation