Archive for the ‘Emma’ Category

April 25

Boston Strong.

By Emma

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a week.  A deadline has come and gone, and another one is fast approaching.  I’ve been overwhelmed by this week and a half, by the regular insanity of life, by my to-do list, trying to figure out how to handle and process the waves of emotions that have gripped me like a tide, encompassing me from time to time as I remember what this week has involved, fading as I get wrapped up with daily life, returning as I see the images and hear the stories that have become inextricably tied to the Boston Marathon.  I could write a hundred blog posts about this week, and I’ve written and rewritten many of them, but we’ll go with this one.

The last nine days in Boston have been absolutely surreal.  First there was Monday — I’ll get to that later.  I woke up on Tuesday, in disbelief that Monday had happened, and that I had to pretend everything was normal and go to class.  It was an entirely unproductive day.  On Wednesday and Thursday, it took all of my physical will to get out of bed and go to classes and work.  I felt emotionally drained.  Thursday night rolled around.  Just after Sean Collier was pronounced dead, I fell asleep.  When I woke up the next morning, my entire world seemed to have been changed irrevocably–for the second time in a week.  A shootout, more deaths, the worst cabin fever I could’ve imagined.  Friday was certainly the longest day of my life, and probably the most bizarre.  I tried repeatedly to turn off the news, but someone would call asking if I’d heard about the latest development, and I couldn’t stay away.  The days since have been emotional, as more and more details have emerged about the bombing, the suspects, et cetera.

But through the midst of the horror that gripped our city for what felt like much longer than a week, and that will be in our minds for many more years to come, I have been completely floored by the outpouring of love and solidarity that Boston has shown, and that the rest of the world has shown for Boston.  I admit, I may have flooded my social media accounts with these stories.  Whether that’s a note from the Chicago Tribune to the Globe, the resiliency of Dunkin Donuts, the way Obama made this tragedy personal with his description of the Boston people, the tireless work of medical professionals across the city, messages of hope from countries that feel Boston’s pain every day, soldiers who had just finished the Tough Ruck (the 26.2 mile march in fatigues with a 40lb pack on their back) and jumped into the midst of the finish line wreckage to help survivors, my own coworker, an Athletic Training major who was working at the medical tent and became a first responder, messages broadcast on the MBTA buses this week, or, last but not least, Yankees fans singing “Sweet Caroline,” Fenway’s anthem — each of these stories made me feel that, no matter how terrified we may have felt for a few hours that Monday afternoon, there is a resiliency in our people, a will to overcome, and a fabric of community in Boston that may not always be this tangible, but is very, very real.

I was privileged enough to have direct contact with that deeply gratifying sense of Boston community during this past week.  On Monday night, a friend involved with a campus RHA asked if I could help him organize chaplains in the residence halls.  I called Brother Larry right away.  Before I could get a word in edgewise, he asked me to come to the chapel.  “We have people,” I remember him saying.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  Grieving people?  Hurt people?  Shocked people?  Throngs of people?  At this point it was around 5:30 — just a couple of hours after the bombs went off.  All of my friends seemed to be accounted for.  But I was still totally in shock.  I was so cold I was shivering, even though it was beautifully sunny outside.  I changed my clothes before I left for Marsh so I would look more professional.  On a day like this?  How ridiculous.  I put on my puffy grey vest.  My favorite item of clothing.

At Marsh, the people gathering were mostly runners who had been turned back before they reached Kenmore, when the race had been closed.  Most were cut off from their families, and their belongings were at the BAA — downtown and inaccessible.  They were mostly in good spirits, a bit tired and cold but still talking and laughing every now and then.  Shortly after I arrived, a group of three middle-aged women came in.  They hadn’t been able to finish the race, and between the three of them had only gotten ahold of once space tent.  They sat down in the nave, and Jan Hill asked if they needed water.  They spotted a diet soda, and asked for that, instead — didn’t want to get a tummy ache.  They needed to get in touch with their friends so they could get a ride home to Worcester, so I lent them my phone, which at this point was almost dead because I had been relentlessly checking the news for several hours.  One of the three women started to get really cold.  Someone gave her a sweatshirt for her arms, and I offered my beloved vest for her lap, with my debit card, ID’s, and keys still in the pockets.  At that point I started wandering around the Chapel somewhat aimlessly, looking to charge my phone and help out anywhere else I could.  There wasn’t much else I could do, so I went back to the nave.  The three Worcester ladies were making jokes – I don’t remember what about – and laughing and chatting.  Something about that made me breathe a little easier.  If these women who had just run twenty five miles, only to be cut off with the news of the bombing, cut off from their belongings, their loved ones, and the coveted finish line, and still smile, surely I could carry on as well.  They used my phone to call a friend.  I wandered off again.  I came back upstairs, and they were gone.  My vest was carefully hung over the end of a pew.  Other runners were still coming in, and we filled water cups and helped them call family or cabs and gave them somewhere to sit and pointed them to the restrooms.

A little over an hour after I got to Marsh, Soren told me that all students were being advised to stay in their dorms.  I asked to go home, and, relieved of my duties for the night, emotion took hold for the first time. I couldn’t catch my breath, and started to cry.  What was happening?  This beautiful, beautiful city that I loved had been attacked.  Rumors were flying about more bombs being found across the city.  It felt a bit like we were under siege.  I went home, talked for hours with my friends about was happening, calling my parents every thirty minutes.

On Tuesday, I got a text message from a number I didn’t recognize.  “Is this Emma? The girl from the church?”  Yes, it’s me.  It was one of the 50-something runner ladies.  “Thank you for what you did for us.”  What?  Me?  I barely remembered Monday night.  I just remembered the relief I felt when three marathoners showed me what Boston resiliency looked like.  Later that day, I got a Facebook message from one of the other ladies.  I’ll post it here to prove something–not that I think I did anything great on Marathon Monday, because the people who did were several miles away at Copley Square, at the hospitals, in the law enforcement departments–I was just a lost girl at work.  But the relationship that started that day with these women goes to show that there is never an act of kindness too small.  I almost didn’t take off my vest.  I was cold too.  I almost didn’t let them use my phone, because I wanted to charge it so I could connect with my parents and loved ones.  But I did, because they breathed reassurance and relief back into my life, and I wanted to do anything for them that I could.  This tragedy brought out a million acts of kindness between Bostonians.  These messages were acts of kindness that affirmed my interest in ministry, my belief in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, in loving others as we were–are–loved.  I’m not sure if any of this has made any sense, but I hope it’s clear that I continue to be touched and amazed by the community — sometimes invisible — that I’m a part of, and the way that it has gelled and surged this week in the face of adversity.

“Hi Emma this is Shari I was one of the girls you helped. I want to thank you so much for everything you did for us. We felt so comfortable at the church we had everything we needed and such great people with us. With all the bad in this world it’s so good to know all the good still stands strong. Thanks again. [We are] so happy you were all there for us. All the people in that chapel opened their hearts to us and we will never forget it, thank you all for making a very sad day turn into a great experience.”

April 12

Baseball Season

By Emma

I don’t necessarily consider myself a sports fan.  I usually have some consciousness of what’s going on in te world of sports, but don’t spend a whole lot of time following it in detail.  I am, however, a die-hard baseball fan.  Living abroad and in different cities for so long somehow precluded me from attaching myself to one team or another, but my mother’s entire family loves the Red Sox, and when I moved to Boston nearly three years ago, they stole my heart, too.

The summer after my freshman year I stayed in Boston, working days at the Admissions office, and evenings and nights at Fenway Park.  The atmosphere in that place is truly unbelievable.  The “church of baseball” metaphor may be somewhat overused, but I’m not afraid to say that Fenway is something of a sports cathedral to me.  The energy in that ballpark, the history enshrined therein, the appeal to every sense and the way the game enraptures the soul–something about it just defines baseball.  It gets my heart pumping to be in the park, to wait for the home runs, to feel crushed by the strikeouts, to celebrate the wins and mourn the losses.

In a semester that has been supremely stressful, when I’ve not had a lot of time to just sit and do leisurely things I love (don’t get me wrong–I LOVE my work and studies), I’m really looking forwards to getting to attend four Sox games in the next two weeks.  My hat’s been collecting dust on my desk all winter, I’ve burned my Youkilis shirt and laundered my Ellsbury jersey, and dug out of storage my Sox fleece with the subtle “B” on the chest; the outfit is ready to go.  Tickets have been purchased for the bleacher section (let’s be real, that’s where all the action is), and the schedule has been hung up above my desk.  I am a devotee of the cult of the Red Sox, and I’m not sorry.  I can’t wait to take some time to care about something that has no weight on my future, on my career, on my academics–besides providing me with pure joy.  Go Sox.

April 3

A Lenten Spring Break

By Emma

Throughout my time at Boston University, Spring Break has been a time of year when I’ve completely run out of steam and need to just sit on a beach and sleep for ten days.  This year, since I already had more on my plate than I could possibly digest, I figured why not throw Alternative Spring Break coordinator in there?  And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made at BU.

Sheena, my co-coordinator and I, were assigned to the Hartford, CT ASB trip.  It’s the first year that ASB has gone to Hartford, so we definitely had our work cut out for us.  After months of planning and contacting sites and failing to get very many meals donated, I was in full-fledged panic mode in the week leading up to our trip, certain that we and our volunteers were going to starve and probably get mugged on the streets of Hartford.  I was almost dreading spring break.

But as we met under the shadow of Marsh Chapel on an incredibly bright, sunny day, all volunteers on time and looking impressively energized, I suddenly felt much better about the trip.  From that moment on, things went more smoothly than I could possibly have asked for.  The people we met along the way were enormously hospitable, getting around was much easier than expected, and the service we participated in was genuinely life-changing.

Often times at BU we get stuck in this Comm Ave bubble, forgetting our back yard, let alone other communities within the New England area.  Spending time in Hartford, the capital of a state where many BU students come from, in homeless shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens, hearing the stories of people who had never expected to become homeless, who had experienced illness, had been laid off, evicted because the building they were living in was unsafe–it all reminded me that the lifestyle we see on Comm Ave is a lot more fragile than we sometimes care to think.

In the Ash Wednesday sermon that we gave, the Marsh Associates emphasized living out an active fast.  My Hartford ASB trip reminded me, particularly in the last three weeks of Lent, to be particularly conscious of the things I have in my life that I too often take for granted.  I’ll never be able to repay the people I met during my trip for the lessons they taught my and the experiences they shared with me; my best bet is to continue giving my time to serve others, and remember constantly how lucky I am in my own life.

March 2

Loving Our Neighbor

By Emma

As Lent goes on and my meditation on the active fast continues, I had the opportunity last night to perform to works of music that I think are quite relevant.

The first was Bach’s Cantata 77, Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben.  This work intertwines the Old Testament commandment to love the Lord your God, and the New Testaments teaching to love your neighbor as yourself.  The second was Britten’s Cantata Misericordium, which is based on the story of the Good Samaritan.  Particularly striking to me is the final chorus verse of Britten:

O that men like this gentle helper, who saved a wounded
man and treated as his neighbour an unknown stranger,
may be found all over the world. Disease is spreading,
war is stalking, famine reigns far and wide. But when
one mortal relieves another like this, charity springing
from pain unites them.

This verse also resonantes beautifully with the final chorale of the Bach Cantata:

Lord, dwell in me through faith,
let it become always stronger,
so that it might be fruitful for ever and ever
and rich in good works;
so that it be active through love,
practiced in joy and patience,
to serve my neighbor from now on.

I think that meditating on these two cantatas is a wonderful opportunity to expand on the Biblical basis and suggestions for an active fast.  Loving your God and loving your neighbor as yourself are in fact, I believe, an excellent centerpiece for an active fast.  From this can grow nourishment of the soul and rebuilding of one’s community.

February 23

Actively Fasting

By Emma

If you attended Marsh’s evening Ash Wednesday service, you might have heard myself, DJ and Abigail chatting about Lent from somewhere up at the front of the chapel.  To me, the most important of our sermon was the idea of an active fast, and I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to be especially conscious of that.

Part of my active fast did involve giving something up.  I decided to give up eating meat during Lent, partly because of the Christian tradition behind it, but for other reasons as well.  As an Alternative Spring Break coordinator, I attended a pre-break meeting where we heard speakers from different ASB issue area talking about why our service in those areas is important.  One representative from the Humane Society gave us an overview of the effect that reducing the amount of meat you consume can help the environment.  I felt like during this time of simplicity, giving up something that will actually improve the world I live in would be an active fast, but it’s also motivating me to be more conscious in my daily routine of when and what I’m eating, so I’m generally being healthier.

The other part of the active fast that we talked about in our sermon involves actually doing things to reinvigorate our own souls revive our communities.  By starting of my day with yoga and improving my diet, and going to sleep before midnight every night, I’ve felt healthier and more energized and ready to be present and useful in my community.  By taking time to greet people, ask how they’re doing, concentrate on other’s needs as much as on my own, I feel like I’ve been able to be a more respectful and compassionate member of my community, not just a passive observer.

While it might be alright to do these things for a week or so, I want to challenge myself to really keep things up for the remainder of Lent–and hopefully throughout the rest of the year as well.  I’m so glad that I have the motivation of our sermon behind me.  I feel that because we shared this suggestion of an active fast with everyone on Ash Wednesday, I’m compelled to try to follow my own advice, and I feel and see the positive effects of this already.

February 3


By Emma

We are writing a sermon.

Some four months ago, when Soren and Jen mentioned casually in passing that Marsh Associates would be preaching at some point during the year, I felt somewhat paralyzed.  People spend years in school learning how to do that well, and I’ve got absolutely zero training in that department.

But I’m starting to get really excited for Ash Wednesday.  During our weekly preaching workshop this afternoon, I felt like DJ, Abigail and I–with Soren and Jen guiding us, were able to wrestle with the outline of our sermon, thinking about how to fit in the biblical exegesis we worked on last week, the stories that we think make the matter more relatable, the theology that ties together our understanding of the scripture.

I’m still nervous as all get out about preaching–don’t get me wrong.  I feel like it’s an amount of authority that I don’t deserve, and a platform from which many incredible men and women have spoken.  I’m not sure how it will feel to talk about such personal theological experiences and thoughts with my peers, and others in the BU community.

But I’m starting to feel ready for it, and very excited.  I’m connecting with the scripture, and with my co-preachers.  I’m eager to get a chance to practice my public speaking outside of my usual Admissions context.  And I’m sensing that this will be a deeply spiritual experience for me, which I’m really starting to look forward to as it begins to unfold.

November 27

Counting Down to Advent

By Emma

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks have always been the most difficult for me during the school year.  Professors seem to suddenly decide that they need to cram in as many assignments as possible, not to mention finals looming just before the finish line.  While I do believe that I thrive under pressure, there’s a limit to that, and finals always seems to push me to the point of immense stress, which I really don’t enjoy.  I’ve also been a bit of a cynic about Christmas in the last new years.  I love the holiday–don’t get me wrong.  But sometimes the outrageous consumerism that this country displays during the beautiful period of Advent is just too much.  I feel like the Christmas I was taught to embrace and celebrate–the birth of Christ–is obscured by Americans’ preoccupation with trees and gifts and movies and silly hats and such.

But this year I find myself genuinely excited for the Christmas season.  I’m already bouncing back and forth between two Pandora Christmas stations–Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ and early music for the holiday.  I’m searching for a great Advent calendar.  I’m actually planning my study schedule for finals, so it feels a lot less stressful.

Another big part of what’s helping me to anticipate this season with joy is being immersed in the Marsh community.  Choir rehearsals for lessons and carols–my favorite part of the holiday season–are already well underway.  (And if you’re not planning on it yet, plan on coming to Lessons and Carols at Marsh on Friday the 7th at 6 pm or Sunday the 16th during our regular service at 11 am.)  In this time of transition from Thanksgiving to the anticipation of Christmas, I find myself incredibly thankful to be a part of the Marsh community, where I feel that the Christmas season is celebrated to the fullest, and where I feel that anticipation of Christ’s birth does not have to revolve around buying presents and decorating trees.  I want to spend this season in a state of mind where I’m able to try to further understand the meaning of Christmas, and what it means for my own spiritual life.  Being in a community where I feel more inclined to be conscientious about my exam preparation puts me in a place to be more organized, allowing me to focus on this wonderful season, and the parts of it that I feel are the most important to me as a Christian.

November 13

God’s Love in Tough Times

By Emma

While Abigail beat me to the punch, I have to talk about Thanksgiving this week.

Fall is my absolute favorite season.  I love the colors on the trees and on people’s clothes, apple-picking and hayrides, pumpkin decorating and apple cider-drinking, the smell of pumpkin pie in the oven and scarves.  I love the crisp air and the smell of snow coming.  It helps that I’m a fall baby, too.

Most of all, though, I love Thanksgiving.  I love getting to spend five days with my father’s absurdly large family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  There’s always food and laughter, and my dad is usually playing some soft jazz on the piano.  It’s often the only time of the year that the whole family is together, and I love catching up on everyone’s lives.  They’re a rowdy bunch but I love them dearly.  I’m also insistent on blocking all Christmas music until I’ve had the chance to fully enjoy the season of fall and reflection on all that I’ve been blessed with over the year.

Sometimes at Thanksgiving, however, it seems that we’ve had more trials than blessings over the last year.  Every now and then I feel as though the weight of the world crushes the bits of happiness that may have transpired.  Life can be really hard sometimes, and when things happen that make it difficult to be thankful.

As Christians, that can be really challenging.  How do we find reflections of God’s love in hard times?  Here’s my answer.  We’ve made it through this year.  Things might not have been perfect, but here we are.  And there are more things to be thankful for than you sometimes realize.  Like Abigail said, start listing them.  Even when the economy is still struggling and people are in conflict around the world and we’ve lost a loved one, there are still small pleasures in life and wonderful people who I can’t help but think God sent to get us through the tough times.

Last week my sister was hospitalized, and my heart was mighty heavy.  I reached out to my sorority sisters for support, and was overwhelmed by words of love, and donations to send flowers to my sister.  She was so cheered by those flowers, and I so comforted by that circle of friends.  Even in the hard times, God’s love shines through in wonderful ways.  And for that, I could not be more thankful.

November 5

Was Jesus a Diplomat?

By Emma

A few weeks ago, Soren and I had an extensive conversation in our one-on-one about why it is that I value service.  This week in our intern group meeting, Jen brought us back to this question.  We’re involved in leadership, service and ministry, she pointed out, and we all have lots of ideas and thoughts about what degree of education we’ like to pursue, and what we might end up doing with those credentials.  But what, Jen asked, connects out motivation for service and our academic and career paths?

As one could probably imagine, this is a question that requires much introspection and self-examination and whatnot, but for this week I’d like to put forward the answer that’s on my mind right now.

I’m fascinated by international relations, and I love history.  It very rarely makes sense, though hindsight is always 20/20, or something like that.  I really enjoy studying the personalities and policies and events that have come to shape the world we live in.  Next semester, in fact, I’m taking four whole IR classes.  This should be interesting.  Anyway, I can’t imagine working in anything but a global scale.  I know there are problems in my own back yard, but I’m entranced by those that play out on the world stage, and I want to be a part of them.

But I’m also a Christian.  One who grew up in the Religious Society of Friends, no less.  So in my understanding, war is wrong.  Always.  And anyone who has ever taken a history class knows those things happen like they’re going out of style.  But when you ask yourself that old “WWJD” question, I really think that the answer is not “go to war.”  I think that Jesus is a compassionate, caring, and just person, who would pursue a diplomatic and humanitarian route to fixing problems.  And, as I discussed weeks ago with Soren, as a Christian, I believe fully in the imitation of Christ–that it’s my role to strive to be like him.  Whether that’s serving HIV+ homeless people in Boston or trying to pursue diplomatic paths that can help increase understanding between the peoples of the world, I think that it’s my job in life to try to live more like Christ, in whatever context I find myself.

I’m sure there will be much more thinking about this to come, but these are my ruminations for now.

October 22


By Emma

Those who know me know that I am a politically-minded person.  I think that politics are important because the decisions of our leaders have very serious consequences for our day-to-day lives and our well-being.

My friends also know that I have a unique global perspective, having lived abroad for six years of my life.

So tonight’s presidential debate was of particular interest to me.  I get it–we live in a world where violence happens, war happens, and the US takes pretty strong military stances on conflicts around the world where we feel like we have a stake.  But I’m very conscious of hoping to live in a world where I can work for peace.  While the last two debates have discussed issues that are very relevant to individuals’ health and wealth, I’m extremely aware of the big picture, and what foreign policy discussions mean for us as individuals.

I want to live in a world where American leaders don’t feel like it’s our purpose to make everyone else in the world agree with us.  It’s ok if other countries work better under different political, economic, and cultural systems from us.  Would the world be interesting otherwise?  I think it’s important for us to value differences and further our understanding of them.

As a Christian, I value the viewpoints of Muslims, Hindus, Jews…you name it.  I value different understandings of the world, and different perspectives, because they push me to question and affirm my own beliefs and opinions.

So this election cycle, I’m asking myself which candidate is taking policies that will further America’s appreciation of the intricate and complex cultural system that is our world, and help me to further my appreciation for and understanding of not only my own, but others’ viewpoints and values.