CRSL Newsletter
February 10, 2021
Working Toward a New Normal
Welcome back everyone! 

We believe this time of transition and pandemic college life will be hard, but spiritually fruitful and rich. We will discover more what it feels like to spend more time alone that we are used to - some of us in a new place, yet with a new understanding of the importance of connection. We will experience the beauty of the New England winter, sometimes just from the windows in our rooms. We will study hard, but with the knowledge that it is not our grades, but our commitment and growthmindset that matter...

We imagine all of us having more time to contemplate and envision what we want our communities and world to look like when the pandemic is behind us, what we want our new normal to look like. We imagine ourselves less able to turn away from oppression, injustice, and fear, and see ourselves as members of a community trying to change paradigms and transform structures. We imagine us more attuned to one another's loneliness and sadness, joys and victories.

The Helen Hills Hills Chapel will continue to operate in "remote" mode this semester, and the building will not be open on a regular basis. We are deferring "iffy" activity now for robust and wonderful activity later, when it is fully safe. (If you have questions about accessing the building see our website, or contact our Operations Manager Maureen Raucher, Our programs will be live and regular on zoom, and we are all still available for conversation and counsel. If you would like an appointment with Chaplain Matilda Rose Cantwell, contact her at with "would like to talk" in the subject line, and indicate your available times or note that you would like her to look at your Google calendar if you have one.
This issue of our newsletter will look at second semester programming, with a focus on Generating Justice and Joy. See you soon in a zoom room!

Transitions and New Beginnings

Dear Friends, 
Do you want to benefit more from the experience and experiences of your classmates and colleagues across the College?
Do you want to share your joys and concerns in a space committed to authenticity and healing?
Do you want to vision what our community might look like in a "new normal" as we leave 2020 behind and look ahead to an in-person campus?
My former supervisor and former Smith Dean of Religious and Spiritual L​ife Jennifer Walters used to say we are a community that gathers. Indeed, we have persisted in gathering, even outside of our virtual classrooms, and over the miles since the pandemic began.
One of the things that has brought us together as a wider community—outside our houses and friend groups, and classes, etc. is often disruptive events, sometimes even tragedies since the 2016 election through the pandemic to the current time, these sorts of events have occurred with jarring frequency. Or rather, events that affect some are more obvious to all. Last summer the righteous eruption of rage over the murder of George Floyd galvanized a movement into a groundswell, and the inequities in civil and human rights become harder to ignore even among some of the most ​privileged among us.

When we gather to face and address and mourn and celebrate, we become stronger, we feel less alone, and at best we are inspired and healed by one another. 
Thus we decided that the forum we called Generating Justice that we held last summer in response to the murder of George Floyd and the ways that it highlighted the murders of countless black human beings in 2020 alone and for month and weeks and a century before; could be a proactive, instead of only a reactive gathering.

Injustice still rages.

The pandemic is still ravaging black and brown communities, elders, our loved ones, and people everywhere.

We are still grappling with isolation, transitions, and uncertainty about the future.
And yet, now is there time to begin to build our new normal… And among ​the things I want my new normal to include is more community, more intentional conversation, and more authentic sharing of the joys and pains of our lives...So we are envisioning a regular space where we can gather as a community, where we perform rituals of healing together, in song and meditation, and words. Where we work to be discerning, not judgmental, confident, not fearful.

L’Tanya Richmond, Dean of Multicultural Affairs and one of the thought partners in our pilot project said, we need justice, but in these times more than ever, we need joy. She is right. We need music and laughter—we need to celebrate as an act of resistance, acknowledge and name our tiny victories. So we renamed our forum Generating Justice and Joy.

Our VP and supervisor say “more justice, more joy. Prof. Loretta Ross says “the revolution must be irresistible.”

Here is our working definition of Generating Justice and Joy:
A regular secu​lar, nonsectarian, interfaith, gathering to build community in uncertain times, where we will provide solidarity and support to one another through sharing, mindfulness, and music. We gather to build reliance toward a better “new normal” in our world, where each vice matters and we work toward a vision of justice and joy. We are committed to an ethic of care and draw on principles of restorative justice, nonviolent communication, and emergent strategy as articulated by activist and writer adrienne maree brown.
Why would you want to attend yet another zoom meeting, when you are trying to keep up with your classes and all the virtual activities to which you try to stay committed? 
While I can't answer that straightforwardly, I can say that I firmly believe that the pandemic is offering us new ways to be with one another and address our common--and different--struggles. In addition, research shows that the "loose affiliations" we may have through participating in recreational activities or meeting people at the gym--seeing some of the same people at several different places at regular intervals-- builds a sense of wellbeing of which the pandemic has robbed us. We hope in our Generating Justice and Joy sessions can be one way we rebuild some of those connections little by little--maybe you will meet your housemate, your classmate, your housekeeper, your financial aid officer.
And in order to build the stronger communities we all want to be part of our “new normal” as we leave 2020 behind, we need all the ideas, aspirations, and commitment we can get, and we need one another, with all the rich and wonderful differences we bring in race, rank, class, temperament, gender identification, ability, age, to name a few categories. We need you! 
Come help us generate justice and joy! (See schedule below.)

Matilda is CRSL's Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain.
(Picture is from Pinterest.)
Excerpts from a Generating Justice
Gathering Last Fall

"As my colleague Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, says, 
We are living in a Kairos moment, a time of both extraordinary danger and great possibility too. All around us the old ways of the world are crumbling…
In this world, the system is killing black and brown people, who thus carry the burden of fear and threat in a profoundly disproportionate way. Some of you may have lost loved ones. 
Let us take a moment to take that in— to look around and share in our acknowledgement, our awareness, or simple recognition of that fact. Some of you among us know this already, all too well.
Earlier this fall the verdict in the murder of Breonna Taylor was returned as a manifestation of a corrupt and brutal system, and many hopes were shattered.
In the death of RBG a Smith honorary degree candidate and staunch feminist in the tradition of our institution died and we wondered what can we say or do this time?
As we speak another black father, brother, son, Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by the police when his family sought help. We have realized that to name the assaults on human life and dignity and respond to them as crises over and over again and again is not adequate to address the problem because the problem is embedded in our very society, it toxifies—and sometimes extinguishes—the air we breathe.
Rather, in our commitment to racial justice in our institution, we must not only respond but interrupt. 
This is why we are gathered for Generating justice tonight —for deep listening to our hearts and to one another, because believe it or not, the moment we begin to hear we begin to heal. We demonstrate that even as we live in and some of us benefit from many parts of this society; we refuse to have our capacity for relationship and understanding co-opted by a system that would commodify and divide us.
Rev. Theoharis goes on to say,
as we head into the most contested election in our nation's history when so much is at stake we must anchor ourselves with the new moral vision-- a blueprint for society that values and defends life-- beginning with the centering of those whose lives have not been valued.
So tonight we will practice the ancient custom of restorative listening, developed in indigenous communities as a way of solving problems, building community, causing lives.
We do this to practice—what I know you already do, but we do it tonight as ritual and commitment; we do it in the way you would develop muscle— tonight is a gentle but profound workout for our hearts. We do this because every single one of us has stories to tell.
Those of us who are nonindigenous, and that is most of us, undertake this practice with humility and great gratitude for those who originated and use it towards the purpose of just communities.
There may be those among you who are skeptical of what we are doing tonight and I don't blame you. Institutions and organizations have repeatedly let you down. But remember your voice and the most strategic way you can use it. Speak truth to power as skillfully as you can, and power might just end up listening.
As we begin tonight, I acknowledge that where I live, 2.8 miles away from Smith College, I am within the ancestral homelands of the Nonotuck peoples. At Smith we recognize our present-day neighboring indigenous nations: the Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan, Pequot, and Narragansett to the South, the Mohican and Mohawk to the West, and the Abenaki to the North. Finally, we acknowledge and celebrate the presence of Indigenous people here among us today. I invite you to take a moment to honor the land around you and all its incalculable beauty; may we all strive to treat it as sacred and sustain it so that it can continue to sustain us…"
Generating Justice and Joy
Wednesday, 2/24 at 12:00 pm

Welcoming One Another and Working Toward a Better New Normal

We have all begun the semester and many of us have been "welcomed" onto campus by actual real live people, and others of us are still having a remote semester. Join us as we share our joys, concerns, and hopes about how to build strong community in our hybrid configuration, and, reviewing the past year, look toward the future, and begin to visualize what a "new normal" after the pandemic is over might look like.

Register in advance for this meeting:

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

Upcoming Generating Justice and Joy Programs: Save the Date

  •  Thursday, 3/18 6:30 pm: COVID-19 Memorial, One Year
Commemoration/Cultivating Critical Hope
  • Thursday, 4/15 6:30 pm: A Restorative Framework: Creating a Culture of Calling In
  • Thursday, 5/6 6:30 Rituals of Transition after a Long Strange Year
Mrs. New’s Tattoo

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

I remember the first time I really saw the numbers tattooed on Mrs. New’s arm.  

I had seen them before, but by 11 years old, I knew enough to really see them. I remember a 2 and a long chain of numbers with a 7 somewhere in the middle. One of those European 7s with the line across them. Mrs. New was a volunteer mother in the Sunday school. I was helping her set a table for some snacks. Paper table cloth, round paper plates, napkins folded into triangles, blue numbers on an arm.

We had a significant number of holocaust survivors in my synagogue. No one spoke about it. But here, only here, within the relatively safe walls of the synagogue, did one secret come out of hiding. Only here did Mrs. New ever roll up her sleeves. Read more here. Rhonda is CRSL's Jewish Student Adviser.
My Favorite Song

Anna Ostow served as a CRSL seminary student last semester at Smith and has now joined the CRSL staff as the Mindfulness Instructor/Spirituality and Social Justice Coordinator. She describes the song La Vita by Beverly Glenn-Copeland (pictured above), as "literally one of my top favorite songs of all time...and a good fit for the energy of CRSL." Listen to the song using this link:
The lyrics, which read like a poem follow below.

La Vita

By Beverly Glenn-Copeland

Per amore
Ascolta il cantore
Lui che canta
Che la vita e bella
Pace, pace
La vita e dolce
Grazie, grazie
Dal cuore, grazie

And I work and I work all day and night
(Per amore)
I wonder if I'm ever gonna get it right
I push and I push to get ahead
I know I gotta make my daily bread
(Ascolta il cantore)

I know I don't have time to lose
I wonder if I really have time to choose
I barely have time to shed a tear
I hardly have time to shake the fear
(Lui che canta)

And the body says "Remember you gotta breathe"
The body says "Take the time to grieve"
The mind says "Let the silence flow"
The mind says "Allow yourself to grow"
(Che la vita e bella)

The spirit says "Cast your eyes above"
The spirit says " Fill your heart with love"
The heart says "Seek the light within"
The heart says "Let the dance begin"
(Pace, pace)

And my mother says to me "Enjoy your life"
(La vita e dolce)
My mother says to me "Enjoy your life"
(Grazie, grazie)
My mother says to me "Enjoy your life"
(Dal cuore, grazie)
My mother says to me "Enjoy your life"

Per amore
Ascolta il cantore
Lui che canta
Che la vita e bella

My mother says to me "Enjoy your life, darling"
(Pace, pace) 

The diverse work of legendary singer, composer and transgender activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland has been gathering momentum in recent years thanks to a reissue of the extraordinary folk-jazz explorations of his debut self-titled album (1970) and the widespread discovery of his acclaimed masterpiece Keyboard Fantasies (1986); an ahead-of-it’s-time synth exploration which somehow combines the essence of new-age minimalism, early Detroit techno and the warmth of traditional songwriting. Throughout a fifty year recording career, Beverly Glenn-Copeland's music has defied categorization and genre, its only consistency being the extraordinary fusion of vision, technology, spirituality and place.
Mindful Transitions and New Beginnings: 

Light meditation and community building with Chaplain Matilda Cantwell and Center for Religious and Spiritual Life Staff. Come learn about the resources of the Center, meet others, welcome and be welcomed!  
WEDNESDAY, 2/10 6:30 PM

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
 Remote Shrove Tuesday Reflection

We invite you to gather if you are Christian or Christian curious, or seekers from all faiths or no faith to gather to “feast" figuratively, review where we have been and where we are going as the Holy season of Lent begins. We will bless Ashes—which will be made available in a contactless manner to attendees on campus the next day--and visualize what we want to burn away in order to clear ground for our new intentions. 
When: Feb 16, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time
Register in advance for this meeting:
Lent Church: Contemplative Community Worship

Join us for five evenings of community centered reflection for the Lenten Season. Come to as many or few as you can.
When: Sundays 2/21, 3/7, and 3/21 and Good Friday 4/2 at 6:30 pm

All are welcome!

Register in advance for these meetings:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing
information about joining the meeting.
Services officiated by College Chaplain Rev. Matilda Rose Cantwell
Feel free to email her at with questions or if you would like to offer readings and/or help with leadership and planning in any way.
Ash Wednesday
February 17
Services in the Community

St. John's Episcopal Church
Remote at 10am
Drive thru Ashes available from 4-7pm
Our Lady of the Hills Parish
With Community Religious Liaison Fr. Richard Bondi
Remote at 8:30am and 6:30pm
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish
(Annunciation Chapel)
Remote at 7:30am, 12:10pm, 6:00pm
Welcome Back Shabbat
Friday, Feb. 19 at 5:00 pm EST U.S. and Canada)

Al-Nur Prayer Lunch Meeting
Friday, February 19, 12:15 - 1:00 p.m.

We invite you to 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! To register, go
audio or questions, contact Kim Alston, Muslim Student Adviser at
Interfaith Spirituali-tea
Tuesdays, 4:45 - 5:45 pm, beginning Feb. 23

CRSL invites people of all backgrounds to share dialogue, and community. This is a student-led program that creates a space for spiritual nourishment as well as honest discussion about spiritual and religious life at Smith and beyond. We aim to be a place where people can bring their whole selves and forge a community grounded in solidarity and social justice. For more information contact Rowan at
Graduating During the Pandemic

Transitions can be a time of reflection. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I care about? How much money do I need to earn? Where do I want to live? What does it mean to do a particular kind of job? Graduating during a pandemic complicates all of these questions, especially as many of you have recently made decisions whether or not to come back to campus for your final semester. Gather together with fellow seniors and seminary intern and Smith alum Rowan Van Ness ‘08 to explore questions of meaning, identity, hope, and belonging as you get ready for graduation.

Drop in for any/all sessions: Tuesdays, March 16, 23, and 30, 7-8 pm Eastern
(Pease email with questions, to express interest or get the registration link.)
Fractals: The Relationship between
Small and Large

A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop...How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. The patterns of the universe repeat at scale. There is a structural echo that suggests two things: one, that there are shapes and patterns fundamental to our universe, and two, that what we practice at a small scale can reverberate to the largest scale...When we speak of systemic change, we need to be fractal. Fractals - a way to speak of the patterns we see -move from the micro to macro level. The same spirals on sea shells can be found in the shape of galaxies. We must create patterns that cycle upwards. We are microsystems.

-adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group...So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks." Read more here.

-Peggy McIntosh
The Pulse of Morning

Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change?

Mindful Mondays, Every Monday, 12:00 p.m.
Finding Our Breath: Mindfulness Practice and Conversation with a Commitment to Compassion and Hope. 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

Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
Helen Hills Hills Chapel
123-125 Elm Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
For news, events and programs: