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Please feel free to browse any of our past articles in the Article Archive >

Rituals and Transitions:
Spring at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life

by Matilda Cantwell

Our website highlights several recent perspectives on the season and how the holidays in different religious traditions incorporate spring. I have always found it to be so profound how the religious traditions; celebrating their own stories and events; are so often in line with the rhythms of the natural world. [...]

Smith's New Director of Religious & Spiritual Life and College Chaplain

by Julianne D. Ohotnicky

The Reverend Matilda Rose Cantwell has assumed the position of Director of Religious & Spiritual Life and College Chaplain at Smith College. She served as the interim director at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life for the last year and as the senior fellow for interfaith initiatives for three years prior to that. [...]

Collaborations Shape CRSL's Spring Semester

by Kim Alston

The spring semester was a whirlwind of spirited activity. Many collaborative ventures stretched our intellect, consciousness and empathy, including [...]

A Bright Future for SCJC

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

Jewish student life at Smith is in a phase of growth and vibrancy. In the two years since the group officially changed its name from Smith Hillel to the Smith College Jewish Community (SCJC), the organization has grown exponentially. [...]

The Glowing Influence of the Spring Equinox

by Emmett Wald '15

The spring equinox, which fell on March 20 this year, is considered the first day of spring, and is recognized as a holiday across many religions and cultures. The spring and fall equinoxes mark important moments in our orbit of the sun, when the Earth's tilt presents the Northern and Southern hemispheres equally to the Sun. [...]


by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

On the evening of Monday, April 10, the Sanctuary in Helen Hills Chapel was filled with 72 singing, laughing, and reflecting students. The Smith College Jewish Community (SCJC) hosted a Passover Seder. It was the largest, happiest, most energetic ever. [...]

Spring's Promise: A Witch's Perspective

by Arianna Alexsandra Collins

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring is the promise of release; of cleansing; of birth waters bearing down on the valley, washing winter into the Atlantic, heralding new life and new beginnings.

Early spring's message can feel like a paradox. Warm sunny days followed by a snowstorm. Icy rain biting at raw skin followed by a warm breeze that can uplift your state of mind. It can confound the body and make wardrobe choices a frustrating activity. But though spring's message may seem confusing [...]

My Islam 2017: An Exploration of Identity (Slideshow)

"My Islam 2017: An Exploration of Identity" was an open mic event for Muslim students and students racialized as Muslim. The program served to highlight the diverse experiences of Muslims and center those whose voices that are usually left unheard, including queer Muslims, trans Muslims, disabled Muslims, Latinx Muslims, black Muslims, converts, and women. [...]

Smith ServeUP 2017 Update (Slideshow)

by Daisy Paez '18 and Dayana Bulchand '18

Nineteen Smith students along with about 65 from the Five Colleges, journeyed down to New Orleans this Spring Break with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to spend a week serving the city and discussing the intersection of faith and social justice, while getting to know locals all over the city. [...]

Sacred Space and Beloved Community

by Matilda Cantwell

The Yoga aphorisms of Patanjali from the third century state "what we truly worship we make sacred." This philosophy rings very true for me. I believe it applies to "worship" in the broadest sense: quiet, alert walks in the woods; moments of meditation or revelation; meaningful conversation and engagement in reading, study, dance, or art; deep and reverent engagement either inside or outside a traditional place of worship. [...]

"Sanctuary" at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life

by Emmett Wald '15

The meaning of "sanctuary" has evolved significantly over the approximately seven centuries since the word was first coined. The English word comes from the Latin "sanctuarium," which in turn is derived from "sanctus," an adjective meaning "holy." In its original form, a sanctuary was quite literally a holy place—a space for holy worship or a reliquary for holy artifacts. [...]

The Sanctuary Movement: A Brief History

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

As a religious concept, "sanctuary" is connected to a sense of holiness and means to be "set apart." The word sanctuary, when used in the context of political movements, has come to also mean places of physical safety, as in the current designation of Sanctuary Cities.

Yet, the roots for this idea come from the the Hebrew Bible bible which recounts the creation of "Cities of Refuge." In the case of accidental death, the killer could flee to a City of Refuge. That person was then protected from vengeance by the family of the slain. Later, Greek and Roman societies both held [...]

(Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser is Smith's Interfaith Spiritual Advisor at the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.)

London Launch:
Giving Students Vision Abroad

by Lizzie Stephanie '18

The Smith Christian Fellowship (SCF) is organized through a larger organization called Intervarsity, a Christian campus ministry with the vision "to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed." For students who are abroad, Intervarsity coordinates weekend retreats and spring break pilgrimages, and provides information on getting involved in the Christian community. During the weekend of February 10-12, I had the opportunity to attend a retreat in London. [...]

Reflections on Resistance and Rebellion

by Kiki Teshome '19

In response to the tense state of reproductive justice, The Steinem Initiative hosted a panel on February 1 in Weinstein Auditorium entitled "Visions for Reproductive Justice: Resistance & Rebellion 2017 and Beyond." The Steinem Initiative—which, according to Co-director Joyce Follett, aims "to improve public dialogue by adding new facts, stories, and perspectives" to social movements—collaborated with the Study of Women and Gender Department, the Jandon Center for Community Engagement, and the Design Thinking Initiative to bring three activists to discuss the challenges facing the movement in the new political climate. [...]

Vespers 2016

by Lizzie Stephani '18

Smith's annual celebration of Advent, Vespers was held two weeks ago in John M. Greene Hall. Smith College Chorus, Glee Club, Chamber Singers, Handbell Choir and Orchestra collaborated to produce the musical portion of the service while members of the Smith College faculty, staff and senior class read various passages from the Bible and other advent related works. [...]

Reflecting on the 2016 Election

by Lizzie Stephani '18

The results of the 2016 elections have come as a shock to many Smith students and members of the greater Northampton community. I've felt weight of the worry, fear, and confusion as I walk to class with my fellow students. Tissues are thoughtfully placed around houses and gatherings are being planned frequently. Immediately following the election, all students were invited to John M. Greene Hall to gather in a space where their thoughts of the election results could be expressed. [...]

Contemplative Practice: Support in Staying Grounded

by Lizzie Stephani '18

Among the central priorities of the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL) is to encourage contemplative practice and mindfulness. A number of events sponsored and supported by the CRSL affirm contemplative practice including Pet-a-Pet day, Mindful Mondays, and the Fall Mediation series. [...]

Otelia Cromwell Day: Sonia Sanchez

by Lizzie Stephani '18

Bri Jefferson '20 and Destiny Wiley-Yancy '20 pose with legendary scholar-activist Sonia Sanchez at a poetry workshop Sanchez gave at this year's Otelia Cromwell Day.

The well-known activist, artist, academic, and author Sonia Sanchez gave the keynote address for Otelia Cromwell Day. Students gathered in John M. Greene Hall on November 3 to hear Sanchez's address entitled "Activism in Art: An Afternoon with Sonia Sanchez," all the while celebrating the first African-American graduate of Smith College, Otelia Cromwell. [...]

Mindful Mondays

by Lizzie Stephani '18

The Wurtele Center and the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life have collaborated to create the new series, Mindful Mondays. This semester, the Mindful Monday series has consisted of four lunchtime meetings where food is provided and a member of faculty leads a discussion on a topic relating to mindfulness in the midst of academic rigor. A short contemplative practice, often lead by the Interim Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, Matilda Cantwell, is also incorporated during the bookends of the meeting. [...]

Diwali Observance

by Lizzie Stephani '18

On Sunday, October 30, students from a wide variety of faith backgrounds gathered in Helen Hills Hills Chapel to observe the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali, or Deepavali. On the steps just outside the doors to the chapel, students used chalk to create bright and vibrant rangolis. This is a common tradition associated with the festivities of Diwali which generally celebrate the inevitable overcoming of evil with good, and ignorance with knowledge. [...]

Black Lives Matter:
A Global Decentralized Movement

by Lizzie Stephani '18

The Meridians, a feminist and interdisciplinary journal, hosted a dialogue Friday, October 14 on the Black Lives Matter Movement in John M. Greene Hall as the keynote event of the symposium "When and Where I Enter." The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life along with the Smith College President's Office, Africana Studies, Program for the Study of Women and Gender, and nearly 19 other co-sponsors. [...]

Soup, Salad, and Soul: Fall Traditions

by Lizzie Stephani '18

With the lasting euphoria of a mountain day well spent, the aroma of pumpkin spice lattes filling the air, and the fringes of foliage changing colors, it's clear that the autumn season has arrived. Last Friday, September 29, members of the Smith and greater Northampton community gathered in Bodman Lounge and exchanged their thoughts on autumn while enjoying a freshly cooked meal during the weekly meeting of "Soup, Salad, and the Soul." [...]

Exploring the Different Sects of Christianity

by Lizzie Stephani '18

The history of the Christian church spans over 2000 years and encompasses some splits that have developed into different sects over time. Carol Zaleski, a professor in the religion department, specializes in the philosophy of religion, world religions and Christian thought. Zaleski was gracious enough to point me to resources that have allowed me understand the divisions in the church with greater clarity and depth. [...]

White Responses to Racism:
A Discussion about Allyship with Ellen Sulser

by Lizzie Stephani '18

A handful of students gathered in Bodman lounge, located in the basement of Helen Hills Hills Chapel, on Thursday, September 22 to discuss white work in anti-racism. The talk touched on a variety of topics within the framework of white allyship and interwove Buddhist practices.

Dr. Catherine Anraku Hondorp Sensei, who led the discussion, is a Buddhist Community Religious Adviser at Smith College. Hondorp grew up as a white, queer dancer and choreographer in a poor, black inner city. She is the co-founder of Two Streams Zen, a multicultural Dharma Movement dedicated to transforming people and communities through fearless intimacy and living compassion. [...]

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