CRSL Newsletter
September 3, 2020
Welcome Smithies to the CRSL!
Dear Friends,

It feels strange to say “welcome to Smith” to those of you who are first years; who we are so excited to meet; and “welcome back” to our beloved returning students when we are not in a “place” to welcome you to.
But then again, we at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life have never thought of ourselves as a place, but rather an entity, a group(s) without required membership, a collective that strives to be the Beloved Community.
Place matters, bodies matter, face to face human interaction matters. This is undeniable and so is our collective anxiety, disappointment, bewilderment, and grief at our circumstances.
But intellectual stimulation, connection, authenticity, and hope transcend space and time zones. There may even be psychological and interpersonal boundaries that are breaking down over zoom, and that is a good thing. If you feel it happening—if you feel more confident, more at ease, more empowered on zoom; you may think “this feels weird,” but let it happen. Without knowing it, we may be preparing for a new world where some of the interpersonal conventions that uphold the structures of alienation and domination are breaking down.
There is a saying in the Christian tradition among my peers which is: “Jesus never meant to start a religion.” This is true—Jesus was a social radical who preached liberation, healing, and redemption, and that became a religion. Nor did he ever build a church.
So while churches, houses of worship are important, we welcome you in this vein. Not to our building right now – the Helen Hills Hills Chapel, but to our community(s). There are no tests, creeds, evaluations or required belief systems to join. All you have to have is curiosity and a desire to grapple with questions, cultivate kindness, and generate hope. (And come to some of our programs!)
So we hope to, as our colleagues in OMA say, “See you soon in a zoom room!”
Matilda and the CRSL Staff and Interns

Matilda is the CRSL's Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain. View her invocation for this year's Convocation on the CRSL blog here.
Reflect | Resist | Rejuvenate
The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life is an inter-religious, non-denominational body which promotes spiritual flourishing for all students, religious and non-religious alike. Our areas of focus are ethical reflection, social and racial justice and civic engagement, mindfulness and contemplative practice, and community building based in dialogue and respect. We provide resources grounded in different faith and wisdom traditions, and strive to raise religious literacy and promote interfaith engagement toward a more inclusive, just, and engaged citizenry. In the midst of a vibrant academic community, we encourage explorations of mystery, faith, ritual, and that which we experience as holy.

We offer guidance and pastoral care through a lens of mutuality and exploration, and collaborate to respond with grace and courage to the events which threaten to disrupt our lives. We are invested in what Rev Dr Martin Luther King and others before him called the "beloved community," a dynamic vision in which the worth, dignity, and promise of each human is honored and in which we strive to live as stewards of the earth and its creatures.
We invite you to reflect, resist, rejuvenate with us, and remember—whoever you are, wherever you have been and wherever you are going, you are welcome here.
Center for Religious and Spiritual Life Info Session
Thursday, September 3, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

As part of First Week programming the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life will host a CRSL Info Session: Spiritual Life at Smith in Hard Times. This is an opportunity to meet some staff, engage in Q & A, and if you wish, stay for guided meditation! To join the session go to: Meeting ID: 948 3913 9259 Password: 071886 For audio or questions, contact
Smithies are invited to a virtual Shabbat gathering and meet-and-greet! 

This Shabbat will focus on connecting new and returning community members, working on our (virtual!) vision board, brainstorming ideas for the semester, and doing the traditional blessings. Please join us for this and future Shabbat services!! Friday, September 4, 5:00 p.m. Register at:
Multi-dimensionality Meditation with Anna Ostow
Sunday, September 6, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST
Caterpillars represent complexity and the capacity for growth. Anna will teach a 15 minute practice that supports us in our capacity to hold complexity. The practice will be followed by time for discussion and reflection. Learn life lessons from the caterpillar. Join at
All are welcome.

In our last CRSL newsletter  we note
the “fire this time,” a reference to James Baldwin’s seminal book... May the fires
of righteous rage and unstoppable hope
burn in you this year.

In Praise of Fire
By John O’Donohue

Let us praise the grace and risk of Fire.
In the beginning,
The Word was red,
And the sound was thunder,
And the wound in the unseen
Spilled forth the red weather of being.
In the name of the Fire,
The Flame
And the Light:
Praise the pure presence of fire
That burns from within
Without thought of time.
The hunger of Fire has no need
For the reliquary of the future;
It adores the eros of now,
Where the memory of the earth
In flames that lick and drink the air
Is made to release
Its long-enduring forms
In a powder of ashes
Left for the wind to decipher.
As air intensifies the hunger of fire,
May the thought of death
Breathe new urgency
Into our love of life.
As fire cleanses dross,
May the flame of passion
Burn away want is false.
As short as the time
From spark to flame,
So brief may the distance be
Between heart and being.
May we discover
Beneath our fear
Embers of anger
To kindle justice.
May courage
Cause our lives to flame,
In the name of the Fire,
And the Flame
And the Light.
Surviving the End of the World Together
Tuesday, September 8, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

The pandemic has revealed more of the cruelty and unsustainability inherent to the United States. We may not know what’s coming in the short term, but it’s clear that if we continue to practice racism, capitalism, environmental extraction, and imperialism, humans will not survive in the long run. In order to survive as a species, we need to learn to do things differently - and what does that look like? What adaptations are required of us, as individuals, and in the communities and organizations of which we are a part, to bring our values forward?

This ongoing weekly practice group takes the work of Black feminist and activist adrienne maree brown’s theory of Emergent Strategy as a jumping-off point for discussion, interactive practice, reflection, and action. Topics will include explorations of internal and group power, how to develop personal practices that support our adaptation, and what it means to hold multiple emotions at the same time. Despair, hope, grief, rage, fear, joy, numbness, depression and more are all welcome. This drop-in group will be shaped by the interests and inclinations of its participants, and it will make connecting on Zoom fun! Please join us Tuesdays for eight weeks. To sign up go to:
Smith Pond

Here is a prayer for you as we enter into this unprecedented and challenging school year. May the months bring unforeseen joys and victories that surpass our imaginations.

Beannacht – A New Year Blessing
By John O’Donohue

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
Center for Religious & Spiritual Life Welcome Party
September 10, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.

Let's get our Spiritual Zoom on and build some compassionate community and share some laughter. If you think spirituality is all serious think again! CRSL Welcome Party! Prizes awarded for attendees! Join us at
Meeting ID: 994 7647 5867 Password: 735689 For audio or questions, contact
Solidarity, Serenity, Soul
Friday, September 11, 12:00 p.m.

A time for soulful conversation on a wide range of topics that might be on our hearts and minds, especially in this time of separation and uncertainty. To join go to: Meeting ID: 995 3874 9424 Password: 870869. For audio or questions, contact
Al-Nur Prayer Lunch Meeting
Friday, September 11, Noon

Join us for a spiritual discussion, communal prayer, relationship-building and deepening our personal communication with the Creator. Bring your lunch, a snack or something to munch on or drink. Offered weekly on Fridays by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. All are welcome!
981 0635 8667 Password: 375647 For audio or questions, contact Kim Alston, Muslim Student Adviser at
Mindful Mondays
Monday, September 14, 12:00 p.m.

Mindful Mondays’s theme continues with Finding Our Breath: Mindfulness Practice and Conversation with a Commitment to Compassion and Hope. This is a forum for light meditation instruction, sharing and building compassionate communities in times of uncertainty, isolation, and heightened revelation of the deep racial and social disparities that are part of the air we breathe in American society. “no one is free until we are all free.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Join by computer at Meeting ID: 975 4027 0782 Password: 226107
To join by audio or for questions, contact
Mark Your Calendar for these upcoming CRSL Fall Programs:

September 15, 12:00 p.m. Faith in a Time of Crisis: An interfaith gathering open to all

September 16, 12:00 p.m. Embodied Social Justice: Mindfulness for Everyday Activism A four part pilot engaging all of us in contemplative activism

October 1, 6:30 p.m. Hour of Prayer: A gathering for Christians, Christian curious or seekers of any kind for centering prayer and worship                                                                                  
Freedom is not a state; it is an act.
It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society."

– John Lewis on movement building in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
Smith College
Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
Helen Hills Hills Chapel
123 -125 Elm Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
For news, events and programs: