November 2017 Newsletter

Our theme for the 2017-18 academic year is “welcome.” We strive to create spaces here at CRSL that welcome everybody. So our fall newsletter is full of reflections on what we’ve done so far this year, what various faiths have to say about hospitality, and what it means to create welcoming spaces. Let us know how we’re doing!

Make your home a haven of rest and peace. Be ye hospitable and let the doors of your home be open to the faces of friends and strangers. Welcome everyone with a smiling face… (Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol. 6, p. 20)

A Message From the Director

Matilda Cantwell, Director and College Chaplain

Dear Friends,
Last spring Smith conducted a national search for the new leader of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and I put my hat in the ring, so to speak, after serving as Interim Director for a year, and Interfaith Fellow for three years before that. It is a deep and humbling honor for me to have been selected and to be asked to serve in this role.


None is our enemy, none is stranger to us, we are in accord with one and all. (Guru Granth Sahib)

Conveying True Welcome

Matilda Cantwell, Director and College Chaplain

In these times of discrimination against immigrants, people of color, those seeking refuge, and so many other groups, in addition to a rash of gun violence and natural disasters which have displaced and traumatized whole communities this fall, it is of deep and urgent importance that we embody welcome. As the articles in our newsletter this month highlight, welcoming the stranger is a trope shared across religious traditions…


When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself… (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Welcome Across Faiths

Emmett Wald, Program Assistant and Web Manager

What does it mean to really welcome somebody? Not just to say, “you are welcome here,” but to truly make a space feel welcoming and inviting to someone? We’ve chosen “welcome” as our theme at CRSL for the year, and I decided to start by exploring what some different faiths have to say about welcoming and hospitality. I was struck by some of the beautiful language about welcoming strangers and, beyond that, the reasons given for offering hospitality.


…And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side… (Al-Nisa 4:36)

Welcoming Programs and Activities

Kim Alston, Program Coordinator

There were multiple ways we thought about welcoming students for the fall term. In September Our Center set up an information booth outside the Campus Center as part of First Year Experience activities. We a offered a spiritual fair where representatives of student organizations, departments, on campus centers and community groups oriented students on resources available for spiritual exploration, interfaith interaction and community worship. Later students were invited to make durable warm blankets for those in need as part of a spiritual social engagement project with one of our collaborative partners, Cathedral in the Night. Last month families and students enjoyed a Spirituali-tea which offered a mix-your-own tea bar but also focused on meditation and living in a spiritually diverse community. Read more about fall kickoff programs here.

Let a person never turn away a stranger from his house, that is the rule. Therefore a man should, by all means, acquire much food, for good people say to the stranger: “There is enough food for you.” (Taitiriya Upanishad 1.11.2)

Limitations Can Strengthen Faith

Kim Alston, Program Coordinator

Often, wanting to engage in spiritual moments in our lives create uncertainty and brief turmoil. It may be timing, communication, traditions, or unrealistic expectations that come into play. One of our students who received funding this summer to assist refugees in Greece shared her experiences with us. Other students learned great lessons from the past by uncovering treasures from a “Baby Torah,” and melding academic time with ancient standard time during the Jewish High Holidays.

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer then, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

Religious Student Orgs on the Move

Kim Alston, Program Coordinator

Al-Iman’s Eid Dinner, 2017

Smith’s student religious organizations have been organizing, collaborating, and planning events to enhance student’s worship opportunities and spiritual practice. With support from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and CRSL, African American students started traveling together to Springfield’s St. John’s Congregational Church on Sundays to fellowship. Interfaith Alliance, a student religious organization, served as a catalyst to make religion “visible” on the Smith campus this month. The student organization sponsored a Public Pray-In in the Campus Center, an idea that came out of Interfaith Lunches hosted by CRSL held every other Tuesday. Additionally, the Catholic Club began a rosary meeting on Friday afternoons and a monthly movie night in the Helen Hills Hills Chapel. The Muslim Student Organization Al Iman teamed up with CRSL to continue Friday Jummah Prayer Lunches in the Chapel sanctuary.  Read more about Al Iman’s collaborative activities, and click here for an intimate look at Muslim life from a student perspective.

One of the duties of a lay person was to make the Fivefold Offering, one of which was providing food, accommodation and help to guests. (A.II,68)