Smith College Center for
Religious an d  Spiritual Life

What Went on?

The Rev. Matilda Cantwell and Smith students prepare lasagna as part of a service project last month. Pastor Stephanie Smith, a Smith Community Religious Adviser, and Alison Brauner '14 of Cathedral in the Night educated participants on the problem of homelessness.

Smith held several vigils this semester in remembrance of events at home and abroad. Here students gather on Chapin Deck to remember the tragedy in Paris.

Al Iman, the Muslim student organization at Smith, organized Eid al-Adha at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel in September. The annual Eid celebrates the willing sacrifice of Prophet Abraham and featured activist Linda Sarsour as the keynote speaker.

Smithies held a fund-raiser at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel to raise money to rebuild a school in Nepal, destroyed by a devastating earthquake last April.

The Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life co-sponsored a panel designed to demystify Daesh/ISIS in December. Dean Jennifer Walters passed out green ribbons to signify solidarity with Muslims. 

Special thanks to CRSL reporters Kristin Rivers '16 and Nora Turriago'16

December 2015

Liv ing Social Justice at Smith

The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel is a place of diverse cultural and religious learning and expression, spiritual development, hospitality and community engagement. We aim to increase student knowledge and engagement with intersections of religion and world affairs, and to provide support and guidance to students as they wrestle with questions of meaning, faith and purpose.

In the fall the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL) expanded upon its theme of "Justice, Identity, and Social Change." Senior Interfaith Fellow Matilda Cantwell met regularly with members of the CRSL Student Advisory Board to cultivate ideas and plan programming to complement the Center's mission. With Community Religious Advisers, college staff and students, CRSL also embarked on a "Faith in Action Project," a new paradigm of community engagement that seeks to develop creative collaborations with community partners.

Many programs were global in nature, which hit home in real ways. "Smith is a community that gathers," Jennifer Walters, Dean of Religious Life, reflected during one of the vigils, held to mark global events. Center staff worked with students to plan campus-wide vigils, calling attention to various concerns including the floods in Chennai, India; violence in Israel; and the attacks in Paris. Smithies came together to offer hope and reassurance in the face of tragedy. Read about the gatherings to address the  attacks in Paris , murdered  Bangladeshi journalists , animal companions, and cultural appropriation.

Religious observances of various traditions were celebrated at Smith this fall as well. The musical promise of the Advent season resonated with Christmas Vespers and Hindu students brought the Diwali festival of lights to Northampton. During Rosh Hashanah Rabbi Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser guided students in the meaning of "L' Shanah Tova tikatevu (May you be inscribed for a new year)"  and Eid al-Adha brought intersectional activist Linda Sarsour to the Helen Hills Hills Chapel to speak on social justice in Ferguson, MO. Each event provided a rich opportunity for personal development, community sharing and aspirations for future endeavors.

Additionally Smithies put their values into action. Two student organizations EKTA and ISO joined forces to provide relief support to families facing misfortune in Nepal where a massive earthquake last April resulted in 9,000 casualties and extensive devastation. Students raised $700 towards rebuilding the Shree Patan Debi Secondary School for children in grades 1-10. Moreover, Interfaith Senior Fellow Matilda Cantwell and Alison Brauner '14 of Cathedral in the Night offered students an educational program on homelessness and service project which prepared a meal for needy families in Northampton.

Addressing difficult issues like racism, Islamophobia, free speech, and safe spaces on the Smith campus brought the campus community together for frank conversations and learning. The Center co-sponsored a panel discussion, entitled "We The Protesters: Policy, Discourse & the Movement for Black Lives;" students of color organized a campus-wide sit-in at the Campus Center to show unity with other college campuses and voice their own demands; and President Kathleen McCartney called a town hall meeting to continue the dialogue and hear more from students. Read more about the "Hot Seat: Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces" and

Smith students also learned to decompress,  relax , and de-stress this semester. A Monday meditation led by Community Religious Adviser Ryumon Hilda Baldoquin, Sensei provided weekly solace to students. Physical movement in an evening workshop with Health Services emphasized kicking, punching and stomping as valves of stress release. And of course, there were other ways such as taking advantage of the semester's unusually warm weather by relaxing on Chapin Lawn, petting guinea pigs, and   getting off campus to drink herbal tea downtown.

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