CRSL Newsletter
October 15, 2020
Harvesting Hope: Reflections Fall 2020
“Hope can seem like a wimpy word... but genuine hope, a hope worth having, is forged upon the anvil of adversity... hope is much more than mere optimism. Hope is the stuff that gets us through and beyond when the worst that can happen happens.

— Peter Gomes The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good about the Good News?
Dear Friends,

We are all talking a lot about hope these days. Hope for a vaccine for Covid-19. Hope for justice. Hope for healing and health and the alleviation of fear. Hope that the intersecting crises that weigh on us will begin to lift; that the ship of divisiveness and fear we are on will change course. Hope that a state of honest and civil governance will emerge in our nation...

Right now it is difficult to hope. At one point this fall I found myself feeling that “hope,” the word, was becoming a little worn out, and I didn’t know even what it meant anymore... What does hope actually mean? We have come to think of hope in temporal terms, as if it were only the coming to fruition of something in the future.

On this score, Peter Gomes author of The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, What’s So Good about the Good News?, says this about hope: Hope is the rugged, muscular view that even if things don’t turn out alright and aren’t alright, we endure through and beyond the times that disappoint or threaten to destroy us…show me what you hope for, and I will know who you are.”

This reminds me that hope is not first and foremost about expectation. It is a state of mind through which life is lived, a quality that we find within moments, actions, and experiences.
If hope involves muscle, as Gomes says, it needs constant working to stay strong—we need to exercise it. But muscles also should not be pushed beyond their limits so that they are strained and can’t keep going. Hope may require admitting that we feel hopeless at times. 

We are in a time of waiting as this most consequential presidential election gets closer, but we are also in a time of harvest, when the turn of seasons calls upon us to gather in the good that has ripened and is ready for us.

Gratitude increases our sense of wellbeing, and gratitude also generates hope. Gratitude can take the form of revisiting moments that brought us hope and savoring them. I invite you to try this with me—stopping in times of anxiety, stress, and even fear, to revisit the fruits of hope we have experienced in our lives, especially in recent days and weeks. It might be the love of friends through conflict; it might be the example of a mentor or teacher; and it might be the ability to laugh uproariously at something on a screen. It might be that you can notice and be moved by beauty, against what the media shows us day after day, the ugliness of which people are capable. 

It might be within us--even if sometimes buried, underneath the confluence of wishes, complaints and fears-- in our capacity for forgiveness, clarity, understanding, and unconditional love. Hope is generated by doing hard things, even when on some days that is getting out of bed in the morning.

Hope arises in me when my children get together with their friends and ride their bikes, wade in the Mill River, get dirty, and even shoot nerf guns at each other. I feel hope when I meet with my prison abolition group, who remind me that my vision: that no one be locked up, isolated and not given the opportunity to take responsibility, forgive or be forgiven, is shared by others. I feel hope when I make a multi-dish meal for my family, light candles, and pretend we are at a restaurant. I see hope when I look around—the pandemic doesn’t keep the leaves from falling or the creatures from storing up their provisions for the winter, when all will lie dormant in order to preserve and create life. 

I feel hopeful every time I talk to a Smith student; I learn each time I hear the set of complex, crucial, dynamic, unique, and often even urgent questions you are asking. In harvest season, the extraneous dies back, and nutrients are gathered in. Let us try to let go of expectation and wishing, and ground ourselves in the soil of true hope, wherein we are nourished by the possibilities within us or all around us, right here, right now. I will draw strength in upcoming days from imagining all of us trying this our own way, but being inspired by one another. We are the ones we have been waiting for!

With warmth and blessings,

Matilda and the CRSL staff

Matilda is CRSL's Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain.
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 The 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.
Meet our CRSL Seminary Interns

Hello! I’m Rowan Van Ness, and I’m thrilled to be a seminarian intern with the Smith Center for Religious and Spiritual Life this academic year! I’m a Smith alum (class of 2008) and in my third and final year at Harvard Divinity School. I’m both active in Unitarian Universalist and Jewish communities. I’m a credentialed Unitarian Universalist religious educator and have worked in congregations and at the denomination level, engaged in environmental justice work, and taught middle school math and science.

I included this image, as a way to introduce myself to you all, through using a mini montage. I included the end of a loaf of challah that friends had shared with me, as I value hospitality and sharing food. The wildflowers represent my love of gardening, noticing beauty, and the vase is a nod to my practice of creating pottery. The picture of my grandmother reminds me of my roots and aspirations. Growing up in Washington State, I learned to spend time on rocky beaches looking for “rainbow rocks;” these rocks represent both the place in which I was raised as well as my queerness. I have included my Northampton mug (“where the coffee is strong and so are the women”) both because I love coffee and tea and because of my commitment to feminism. There’s a framed piece of calligraphy with a line from a song by Red Molly, “may I suggest this is the best part of your life.” I both love music as well as the reminder to consider whether any given moment of my life might be a time that I look back on fondly. The final object in my montage is a box of tissues. They represent my acceptance of the full range of emotions that grace my life, from tears of sadness to tears of laughter. 

While each of us carry who we are within us, there are ways that objects can help remind us what is core to us or emphasize what is important. Who am I and who am I growing into? College can be a time of tremendous growth and change, and there are threads that stay constant in that mix. As people are away from campus, what are the practices, the objects, and the rituals that make you feel most like you? That make you feel at home with yourself?

Hi Smith community! I'm Anna Ostow, and I am honored to work with and learn from the staff and students at Smith College as a seminarian intern with the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life for the fall semester. I'm also in my second year of the Master of Arts in Social Change degree at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. I am passionate about bringing people together in community in ways that allow us to be our full selves and in touch with our purpose. To me, 'full selves' often means making space for the parts that we might hide in daily life - grief, despair, rage, shame, confusion. In my experience, being in touch with the whole of ourselves gives us a wider range of choice as we move through our daily lives.

In a related vein, I love working with white people in starting with ourselves when it comes to undoing racism, and I do that work as a facilitator with racial justice education community called the UNtraining. Supporting other white people in that process, as I am actively engaged myself, has brought tremendous joy and connection into my life. Besides community connection and healing work, I love to spend as much of my free time outdoors as I can, and I'm also learning the fiddle.

things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.

-adrienne maree brown

As the veil is lifted from us as a society, what are we doing with the emotions, awareness and energy that this brings to the surface? Surviving the End of the World, Together is a weekly group that is learning how to shape this change, how to work with the emotions and awarenesses that are being unlocked in this time as we "pull back the veil." Every week we share from our lives and through that connection we are increasing our ability to hold some of the complexities of it all, together. Woven into our group are centering practices and time for reflection which we're using to help us figure out - how do we want to shape this change? How do we want to show up in our lives, in our communities? And the questions go on and on.

To experience the centering practice for yourself, you can watch somatics educator Prentis Hemphill lead the practice at minute 11:35 of a webinar from Generative Somatics entitled "Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice in the time of Coronavirus."

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

After Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, 11-year-old Micah Blay made a pilgrimage to the U.S. Supreme Court and blew the shofar for the hundreds of people gathered there. In keeping with Jewish custom, they laid small stones on the steps of the building as if the building itself were RBG’s headstone. Throughout the Jewish world, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was brought to mind as the shofar sounded at Rosh Hashanah services across the country.

Perhaps no one deserves the title “Justice” more than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The word for Justice in Hebrew is TzedekTzedek is the word not only for the concept of justice, but also for righteousness, and for helping those who are less fortunate. One word is for all three because Tzedek must contain all of these elements to be whole.  One who graces us with extraordinary deeds and teachings is called a Tzadik. A righteous one. There is a Jewish folk tradition that if one dies right before Rosh Hashanah, it is because they were a Tzadik and therefore not in need of the 10 days of repentance that are the High Holy Days. Read more here.
Thankfulness as a Remedy
for Change

By Kim Alston

There is a popular saying in Islam that Muslims use in their everyday interactions to give thanks, praise and glory to God. Alhamdulillah is an Arabic phrase translated as All praises are due to Allah. Muslims use it to show their reverence and appreciation for the Creator and to divert from taking credit for what belongs to Allah. This phrase is used to demonstrate humility and gratitude for anything including one’s gifts, talents, skills, and experiences from the smallest to the most pronounced. Although this is a Muslim expression it is a powerful testament to human beings’ dependency and interdependency on higher forces that affect every aspect of life. Read more here.
Indigenous People’s Day Firsts and Other Facts

Shared by Maureen Raucher, Adviser to the Christian and Humanist Communities

·      First State to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day: South Dakota, 1990

·      First City to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day: Berkley CA, 1992

·      Date when Northampton MA renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day: June 2016

·      Date when Smith College renamed the second Monday in October to Indigenous People Day: October 2020

·      Date when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day: It hasn’t. Bill 3665 brought forth by co-sponsor Northampton Senator Jo Comerford did not move out of the committee in which it was heard. The bill will be reintroduced in January 2021. Please visit for additional information. 
Mindfulness as Resistance:
An Embodied Approach to Social Justice

Please join us for an embodied approach to mindfulness and social change where we will explore our lived experience as sources of wisdom, resilience, and resistance. In a supportive environment, engage in mindfulness practices, as well as discussion and reflection to guide us toward greater awareness. These skills will also help us build our capacity and purpose as students, community members and activists. This hour-long weekly program is open to the entire Smith community including those with no experience with mindfulness or political activism --all are welcome.

This is a pilot project which we hope will be continued at a future date with a longer-term program. Attendance at all five sessions (10/22, 10/29, 11/5, 11/12, 11/19) is strongly encouraged but not required so we invite you to come when you can.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Oct 22, 2020 06:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Shabbat Virtual Gatherings 

Join us on rotating Fridays for a fun-filled Shabbat! We focus on community-building, singing songs, and doing the traditional blessings. Each week we create a new theme and focus on something different. To receive the zoom or audio link or questions, contact Lara Brown at The next service will be Friday, October 23, at 5:00 p.m. 
Black Campus Ministries
Sundays | 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
Beginning October 18, 2020
Join Ava and Shanelle on Sundays at 7 pm EST for Black Campus Ministries Small Group! This space is created for students to discuss the relationship between black identity and Christianity. For more information, contact Ava ( or Shanelle ( for zoom information! All are welcome.

Laura Ann Hershey (August 11, 1962 – November 26, 2010) was a poet, journalist, popular speaker, feminist, queer woman, and a disability rights activist and consultant. She used her gift of poetry as a platform to unapologetically engage with disability, identity, and social justice. Her partner Noah Roush explained that “when Hershey writes—powerfully, yes, and lyrically, narratively, politically—she’s modeling a kind of activism..."

(Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)


by Laura Hershey

What you risk telling your story:
You will bore them.
Your voice will break, your ink
spill and stain your coat.
No one will understand, their eyes
become fences.
You will park yourself forever
on the outside, your differentness once
and for all revealed, dangerous.
The names you give to yourself
will become epithets.
Your happiness will be called
bravery, denial.
Your sadness will justify their pity.
Your fear will magnify their fears.
Everything you say will prove something about
their god, or their economic system.
Your feelings, that change day
to day, kaleidoscopic,
will freeze in place,
brand you forever,
justify anything they decide to do
with you.
Those with power can afford
to tell their story
or not.
Those without power
risk everything to tell their story
and must.
Someone, somewhere
will hear your story and decide to fight,
to live and refuse compromise.
Someone else will tell
her own story,
risking everything.
Racial Justice in Islam: Searching for Answers
Two Fridays
Oct. 29 and Nov. 6
6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Injustice, political strife, racism and racial divide have engulfed many counties throughout history. We see these issues playing out presently in America and in different parts of the world. These concepts are not new to Islam and challenge us to understand elements of our faith. Islam has many relevant stories with characters who were victimized, targeted and persecuted for their faith and ethnicity. What does the Quran say about injustice and how did the Prophet handle issues of equity and inclusion? This is a two-part workshop in which we highlight stories in Islam that unveil the Islamic truths about justice, its ethical foundation, and unforeseen challenges. We will use story-telling to discuss justice in Islam and the role, we as believers, play in its execution. How do we live Islamic ideals in societies that are guilty of oppression and repression of its own citizens? What responsibility do Muslims have today and what can they do? Together we will share thoughts, deep concerns, and ways to impact change. Everyone is welcome! Registration is required. To Register, go to:
Led by Heba Saleh, Community Religious Liaison and Kim Alston, Muslim Student Adviser
Sponsored by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
Progressive Yiddish Art and Politics,
Past and Present
Sunday, October 18, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. ET

Join us for a virtual panel with two of the most dynamic creators of Yiddish culture today. Hear how journalist and playright Rokhl Kafrissen and performer and composer Anthony Russell call upon history to inspire their art and advocacy. Registration required. TINYURL.COM/OCT18YIDDISH.
Al-Nur Prayer Lunch Meeting
Friday, October 23, 12:15 p.m.

Join us for a spiritual discussion, communal prayer, relationship-building and some fun activities. Bring your lunch, a snack or something to munch on or drink. Offered on rotating Fridays by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. All are welcome!
Meeting ID: 981 0635 8667 Password: 375647 For audio or questions, contact Kim Alston, Muslim Student Adviser at
Mindful Mondays
Monday, October 19, 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
Yamiche Alcindor Delivers
Cromwell Day
Keynote Address

This year’s Cromwell Day virtual celebration will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 10 with the theme "Tackling Anti-Blackness: Moving Past the Abstract." White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor will give the keynote address on “The 2020 Election in Black and White.” In honor of trailblazers Otelia Cromwell (class of 1900) who was the first Black graduate of Smith and her niece Adelaide Cromwell '40, Smith's first Black faculty member, on Cromwell Day the Smith community will dedicate a full day for reflection on equity, inclusion, racism and diversity. Look for morning and afternoon contemplation spaces, online workshops, speakers, readings, and an all campus art showcase, "Tackling Anti-Blackness Through Art." Submit artistic contributions relevant to the message of Cromwell Day, and especially this year's theme by October 18 before 11:59 p.m. This google form contains guidelines and a link for submitting your work:
Generating Justice
Wednesday, October 28 & November 4
6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

A Gathering to hold space for anger, outrage, grief and commitment to action as we navigate election season, the uncertainty that surrounds it, and the demand for social justice. See Edigest for zoom link. This event is sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and supported by the Dean of the College.
Embodying Your Curriculum: A Workshop on Trauma-Informed Pedagogy with Anita Chari and Angelica Singh

Friday, Oct. 16, 1 p.m.
This 3-hour workshop will cover practices for the classroom based on trauma-informed pedagogies, the neuroscience of mental health, and pedagogies of social justice and diversity. It will help to create connection in the online and in-person classroom at a moment when higher education is facing profound social problems that cannot be walled off from classes and that produce anxiety, stress, and burnout among many. Trauma and overwhelm within the specific context of the pandemic and the movements against anti-Black violence will be addressed, with practices that can be used in the classroom and in life immediately. RSVP at
Nourishing Our Bodies & Our Body Image in Pandemic

A Conversation with Leah Berkenwald and Kris Mereigh

Thursday, October 15
6 - 7 pm

On Insta Live

Watch for Upcoming
CRSL Fall Programs

Faith in a Time of Crisis: An interfaith gathering open to all

CRSL Game Night, hosted by student leaders

Student Advisory Board focusing on policy & program advice

Hour of Prayer: A gathering for Christians, Christian curious or seekers of any kind for centering prayer and worship         

Cultural Care Break

Thurs., Oct. 15
6:00 - 7:00 p.m. (EST)

RSVP limited to 30 Smithies

Move & Groove
QTPOC Collage
Cultural Affirmations
Smith College Counseling Services
Fall 2020 Groups

ADHD Support/Homework Club
Asian Student Support
Back Home Blues
Black Student Support
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Grief Support
Low Income Support
Overwhelming Social Isolation
Survivors of Sexual and Dating Violence
SOC Support
Students Impacted by Immigration
Trans, GNC, NB and Questioning Support
Smith College
Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
Helen Hills Hills Chapel
123 -125 Elm Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
For news, events and programs:
Like us on Facebook and Instagram!