God be in my end, and in my departing.
I have spent four years at Marsh Chapel, with some hiatus in the middle for living abroad. The worship service we are sharing today has followed me through my college career, regardless the continent I was on, and for the sake of our time (which is now) and the sake of our place (which is here), I would like to frame my beliefs in the elegant rhythms of the Marsh Chapel worship service. And what better place do we have to begin but the end—from this choral response, let us step back to the prompt. God be in my head.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you…
I believe we can be a benediction for each other, and in so doing witness a gospel in the present tense. I believe the Spirit lives in the hearts of all, and we cannot begin to understand the nature of God without the participation of all.
I mentioned I lived abroad but surely the most important travel I have ever done was to visit the temples of every-body, to sit in the pews of another person’s understanding of God and glissando in reverence of another person’s chorus. The past four years gave me conversations with people who envision God from a different angle—my Orthodox Jewish brothers looking back throughout history, my Buddhist sisters looking around and within, my Catholic friends looking—well I’m not really sure, but they are indeed beside me and I cherish them like I do my Muslim classmates and Hindu roommates and the debates I have with the swell of atheism that characterizes this generation.
What a benediction they are to me, how earnestly I try to represent Christ to them.
I believe that our offertory can be a social one, that when we are with each other we can bless others just as we have been covered with blessings. For it is when we are with each other that we find our place within the Creation that has already been worshiping:
All Creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia! Alleluia!
It is when we walk in offering and sacrifice to God that we can hear each other, that the prayers of the people can find volume. How greatly the capacity of our hearts enlarge when, kneeling next to each other, we can support the whole world and work to end suffering that we can only touch by prayer. And for the suffering that we will encounter once we step outside of this sanctuary, we orient ourselves right, crying:
Lead me Lord (for I have lost my inspiration), lead me in thy righteousness (for we have rejected our liberation), make thy way plain before my face (Oh You, our object of adoration).
And after such contemplation I find I can’t help but preach about it. To share a gospel with my tongue but also to deliver a sermon with my living—that each song I sing can be like David that each lesson I bring can be like Paul. Not that either of those guys were particularly holy, which works out because I’m not either. The good news, though, is that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, this proves God’s love for us—now all we need to do is prove that we can love each other.
I believe that each morning gives us opportunity to begin worship anew. Just like this morning, how we gather—now, here—where the dawn of the east meets the twilight of the west, and the cool of the north touches the calm of the south. We follow the same worship rhythm, but the song changes with every breath.
I never suffered growing pains when I was younger. If you can’t see me behind the podium today, you now know why. Childhood didn’t quite prepare me for the lessons I learned in college. I wasn’t challenged out of my comfort zone often. I went to middle school with practically the same people and teachers as I did when I left for college. Change was not something I was used to, but it was something I desired.
On my own for the first time, I felt truly lonely. Seeking to keep some regularity in my life, I came to Marsh Chapel for services on a very windy, but sunny day. I dragged my parents along to a service they said reminded them of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Yes, the music was new for me too, but the message was similar. After the service, they offered a trip to the JFK Library, and I decided to tag along.
And along I stayed. It was in Marsh I found a home away from home. I ran here when news of the stock market crash hit and since then, nearly every crisis I’ve gone through has ended with me coming here for help. Within the first month of classes, I lost one of my youth pastors from home and ended up in the sanctuary crying. I wasn’t alone for long, before someone came and talked with me. I found other people just as interested as I was to find friends and stability. I started to joke that Marsh had adopted us bratty freshmen. One friend and I even made a Marsh family tree, with Dean Hill and his wife, Jan, as our grandparents, Elizabeth as our aunt, Ray as our uncle, and Brother Larry as our brother. To further the joke, I started to write the Thurman Room couch #1 as my address in the red books in the pew.
It saddens me to walk away from all this after only three years. After all this trailblazing, I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to stay here, in Boston, at Boston University. In my case, I won’t even graduate with the girls I was so closely friends with. They have still a year to go, and I am leaving early. My family is coming up from the South to see me graduate, but I want my Northern family, my Marsh family, to be there too! Perhaps this is a kind of sadness that acts like a growing pain, letting me know it’s time to move on. I fear that to graduate is to lose them. But wherever this graduation process drops me off, I hope to still have my faith in this family. Because that’s what Marsh has taught me. Not faith in the good book-I’ve had that for awhile. No, Marsh Chapel have given me back my faith in the family, faith in friendships, and restored my faith in nearly everyone around me. Perhaps I will be able to walk away from here as I did from my home in Florida, assured that even if I move or they move that we will always have the times we once shared in a place we called home. Perhaps these growing pains would at least lend me an inch or two in time for graduation.
My name is Rachel Hassinger.
Thank you for including me in your service today.
I started this journey to graduation many years ago at a diffe
rent school. Now I am finishing here at Boston University.
I am a woman of faith. I used to believe in a God that heals. I still do, but it hasn’t been easy.
I grew up a believer. I led the youth group, and studied the bible with my peers and my mentors. I joined ecumenical and other student religious groups at my previous college.
Unfortunately, my experiences with extreme antigay hatred and fear have catapulted me out of the church.
While this may not change soon, I trust, that although my student life at BU did not lead me through Marsh Chapel or other religious groups, my finals days as an undergraduate student are just the beginning of my future — grounded in a faith that knows no boundaries, a faith that transcends creed, class or nationality.
This I believe:
I believe in a goddess of suffering, a god of true life.
I believe in a spirit of justice, a father/son, mother/daughter, tree of life.
I believe in a faith that shatters and is yet still restored.
I believe in a Jesus that lived on this Earth, and suffered beyond human understanding.
I believe when an officer shot and killed Danroy Henry, a black, 20-year old Pace University student, sitting in a car outside a New York bar last year, our Yahweh mourns. And when that same cop is crowned Officer of the Year, we can hear Her wail in sadness and rage.
I believe that God created each of us in Her image – that race and gender are built by humans to explain oppression based on color, country, gender expression, sexuality or creed.
I believe that a person who steals bread is first and foremost hungry — that we as a society are accountable for acquiescing to a system that leaves that one – and a million more – starving and underfed.
I believe that God knows no boundaries; God knows no walls.
I believe if we listen to the oppressed: such as the Palestinians, whose homes are being bulldozed in Gaza, the Jews who came before whose lives were shattered, the Muslims targeted by xenophobia and bigotry, or the persecution of the brown skinned in the name of fake borders and walls — we can hear our Lord calling us to turn over the tables in our temples of greed.
I believe in a Love that seeks justice, in a love that kindles passion and purpose in those that know Her.
I believe that God does not only bless America or Boston University, the wealthy, the light skinned, the able-bodied, or the straight — god blesses all.
I believe that no matter what humans conjure up as creed, that the single most important truth resides in these words from Jesus: love your neighbor as you love yourself.
RuPaul – host of Logo’s hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race — says it another way: “If you can’t love yourself, how (in the hell) you gonna love someone else?”
“Can I get an Amen?”
Two weeks left of our undergraduate education, and the first sunny day of the season upon us, a new friend and I sat on BU beach. Our professor had just mentioned the saying, “all paths lead up the same mountain” while my friend had recently heard a similar proverb, “the view is the same at the top of the mountain”. Thus began our debate on whether the two maxims had the same significance.
This moment was a triumph for me in more than one way. Not only had I picked up on a nuance in the sayings, but because I myself confessed what I believed to be true. All paths up a mountain indicates, everyone looks for a universal divineness believed to be at the top, while climbing for a view highlights a moment for contemplation at the top.
An underclassman once asked me if I ever found myself overwhelmed, depressed or confused by deciding to double major in religion and biology. It was the first time I was asked to contemplate my personal beliefs and how they were affected by studying religion and science, and I was scared. Until then, I carefully isolated what I studied from my faith. Being a student, there is an understanding that we are to be the pragmatics in society; better to be one while at the forefront of a progressive one. I wasn’t ready for my faith to confront what I was learning. I was frightened by the possibility of coming to the logical decision to reject God. And, I was ashamed to admit, if He did exist, I didn’t want to be punished by God for rejecting him.
Instead, it was easier to shunt those niggling reservations. I even thought to myself that I would reflect when I had the time- I was too busy making friends, studying and traveling to be able to peacefully think. Obviously, this wasn’t successful. Whenever there was a quiet moment, the conflicts between logic and faith screamed to be heard in my head, and so, slowly, in the sanctity and secrecy of my own mind, I began to pose questions in an assumed format: Humans are only given so much responsibility because God believes us to be capable- right? God ensures that in the end, it is a just world- right? I then became more ambitious and I asked: Is there a paramount realization experience to be had if we meditate hard enough? Should authentic reactions of hate, jealousy, and anger, though facets of humanity, be denied because they are ugly, or, are all faiths taking different paths up the same mountain?
Learning and enquiring has threatened my faith, however it is thrilling and I have developed a more nuanced view of it. Questioning is strenuous and a blessing. You are your own most judgmental critic, but in this way, once you form your fluid convictions you understand the path you took to get there.
This I believe: Having absolute static beliefs is easy. Allow yourself to doubt and form dynamic beliefs.
While it may make you feel vulnerable, it is right before then, that you see the view.