Brittany Schwartz is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental analysis and policy, with minors in earth sciences, biology, and international relations. She has been a leader on the Servant Team here at Marsh Chapel throughout her time at Boston University and was given the University Service Award for her extraordinary contributions at the Community Service Center.
I didn’t plan on getting involved with religious life at BU. I planned on going to mass but that was going to be about it for me, like it always was.
But I was browsing the BU calendar on the evening of one of the very first days of classes freshman year and saw an event for that night that really caught my eye: capture the flag. I didn’t pay much attention to the group running the event and was simply eager to participate in a game I loved to play with friends back home. Turns out it was hosted by Marsh Chapel. Hmm…
Once I found my way to the Thurman Room in the basement, I was greeted by some of the craziest, coolest, most-passionate people I had ever met, along with my very first of many free meals from Marsh. Those folks I met that night made me feel unbelievably welcome as they asked meaningful getting-to-know-you questions and genuinely listened to my answers, pointing out little pieces of common ground between all of us along the way. Within these new friends I found comfort, I found family, and I found home.
And so it began. After that night and some other first-week events I was hooked on this open, accepting, lively place and the even more dynamic people found inside of it. From service projects with Servant Team to discussions with Interfaith Council to community dinners on Monday nights, the Marsh family has unrelentingly reminded me how amazing it is that while we each hold our own different beliefs we can share in so many of the most wonderful aspects of life.
I believe we as humans can all unite with the image of a world that is kind, just, and wholesome, one that revolves around compassion for others and treasures each individual’s unique perspective, experiences, and voice. A community like this one here at Marsh, one that is founded on indiscriminate love and cherishes common threads, allows me to put incredible faith in the thought of such a place.
Looking at it as a whole, my journey here at Marsh is kind of just like that capture the flag game I went to freshman year. Both are about working with others and searching, looking into things in ways you hadn’t before and taking risks along the way as you propel across that safe line of comfort, trusting others to have your back. Each quest requires perseverance, attention, and a deeper understanding of yourself. Both are exhilarating and challenging, especially when you’re sometimes left confused in the dark as the unexpected strikes. The diary of neither adventure is perfect – you can get tagged and sent to the tree or come across incomprehensible struggles in life – but both are always more than worthwhile. One thing that’s different, though, is that when working on finding yourself and your beliefs at Marsh, everyone has customized flags – many of them in common with others, some not – and we’re all on the same team. Plus, at Marsh we all get flashlights – that is, amazing people that teeter the perfect balance of guiding us and pushing us to discover things ourselves.
I am incredibly blessed to have been a part of this community for the past four years and don’t just believe but know that the deep friendships I’ve made here at Marsh will forever be a home-base for me as I search and reach for the flags life after BU will bring.
Thank you to all who have supported, inspired, and simply loved me while I’ve been here.
Molly Flanagan is graduating magna cum laude from the College of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Music in Brass Performance, specializing in French horn. She has been a faithful member of the Marsh Chapel choir throughout her studies at Boston University.
I attended Sunday school regularly as a child, and came away with two things from that experience: 1.) Jesus apparently likes to drink a lot of wine and 2.) God looks like everyone. I accepted the first one without much internal struggle, but the second one threw me for a loop. Our teacher told us that God makes everyone in his own image, so He looks like a little bit of everyone… or something like that. I tried to picture what every person in the world looked like, and how you could mash all of those images into one. There are only so many features on a face, and who got to decide what color the eyes were, or what size the nose was? And if He looked like everyone, then wouldn’t He really look like no one? I don’t like thinking very hard about things, and I was no different at age 7, so I ended up letting it go.
Years later, I began my freshman year of college. I crashed, and badly. It took me a long time to get used to being at BU, and I hated myself for that. I joined the Marsh Chapel choir my second week of school and hung out with people from CFA, but I could never really make it work. Every time I felt myself becoming comfortable with what I was doing, or actually feeling okay for a moment about where I was, there was always something that would overwhelm me, like it wanted to remind me that I was not allowed to be happy or at peace. The feeling gradually disappeared the longer I stayed in school, and I assumed that “it” was just normal freshman adjustment difficulties that I’d left behind me. However, “it” came back numerous times until about 18 months ago, when I finally saw a doctor who diagnosed me with Depression and started me on medication that gave me my life back.
During those tumultuous years when it felt like the ground could slip out from beneath me at any time, the one thing that remained consistent was the people along the way. There was my teacher, who noticed that something was off my second lesson and, much to my surprise, spent an entire hour talking to me instead of playing. There was the friend who l was able to confide in and vent to more comfortably than I could with anyone else, a friend who I only met because he just happened to be the roommate that year of another good friend of mine. There was the teacher I had during a semester abroad whose kindness helped me find my way thousands of miles from home. There was also the group of people who, maybe without knowing it, provided a safe space for me every Thursday night and kept me going even through those days when I seriously considered dropping out of school. Whenever anything happened, whenever I had a setback or got into trouble, someone always just happened to be there to help me along the way. Four years later, I am still here; four years later I now believe that those numerous acts of grace and kindness that kept me here came from God working in the form of the people I come in contact with. So even though I am leaving Boston after this week, I believe that wherever I end up, God will be there with me, and He really will look just like everyone around me.
Serrie Hamilton is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. She has been a faithful member of the Servant Team throughout her time at Boston University and served on the ministry staff here at Marsh Chapel in 2011-12.
I have been a part of the church since before I can remember. Growing up a blond-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavian girl in the heart of the Midwest, I narrowly avoided Lutheran lutefisk dinners, but was always up for a tater tot hot dish. Growing up as a church musician’s daughter, I lived and breathed church; marching on over to my dad’s office every day after school, singing in children’s choir, having my classmates tease me, saying that I had a microphone in my earring because that was the only way I could know all the answers in confirmation class.
Then, I fled to Boston University. I was convinced that I had to get as far away from what I thought of then as the stifling Midwest and my identity as my “father’s daughter.” I was convinced that I didn’t need church and that living and breathing church was the same thing as faith.
I kept that mentality up for about a year until I met Br. Larry and Dean Hill. It was not long after that that I wrote to Br. Larry while sitting in my darkened dorm room on Bay State with the realization that church for me could exist outside of my childhood world; I wanted to be involved at Marsh, and did I ever get involved! I ushered, I co-chaired Servant Team, I worked in the office, I worked as a Ministry Assistant; I was back to living and breathing church, which I again, was confusing with faith.
It was then that I decided to take a step back from all these commitments. In the past year, I have learned so much about myself and my faith. I came to Boston, convinced that I would change the world. Has that happened? No, but I have made my mark, giving friends advice, engaging in academic conversation, smiling at strangers as they pass by. As I grow older and wiser, I realize that these are the things in life that matter, these are the things that grant me the ability to have faith in God – the little things that reveal God’s presence in our daily lives.
After an almost 23 year long journey with its twists and turns, for better and for worse, I have barely scratched the surface of what faith means, but here is what I believe today:
Today, I believe that having faith in God allows me to be unsure about my faith in myself. God picks up the slack, and is there, even in the depths.
Today, I believe that God works through each one of us so that we may support and love one another.
Today, I believe that, in the words of Dean Hill, wherever you are, be present. Breathe, listen, smile, love, hear, lift, be there.
No matter what happens, when I question my abilities, when I doubt my choices, when my faith falters, I look to words from the Dean:
Life is good. Morning is good. Prayer is good. Grace is good. Love is good. Family is good. God is good. All the time.
In this, I will always believe.
Sami Hamdan is graduating summa cum laude from Sargent College with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and will begin a Master of Public Health in health policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health in the fall. He has served as a Student Health Ambassador at Student Health Services for the past two years.
Faith is at times a tricky concept. In the small, dark moments of my life, faith felt like leaning against a wall of mist. But that was before I came to college, before I fully understood what faith meant to me. I have found that my faith was tested in my time at Boston University, and in the end, strengthened. When I began college, I was not entirely sure what faith meant. I knew what religion meant, and I accepted Islam as my religion wholeheartedly, but a deep and intuitive faith took time to discover. As my understanding of faith began to develop, I found that it is far more than a litany of dogmatic do’s and don’ts. While ritual is important, my time at college has shown me how faith can be cultivated in many ways, not simply through one system of belief. Of course, actively embracing Islamic prayer and ritual has helped channel and grow my sense of faith. But for me, faith gained a far more fundamental meaning. In so much of the world today faith is portrayed as a divisive issue, but I have come to believe that true faith is a common denominator more than a common divider. For me, faith is living deeply, by meaningful action and through meaningful connections with others. For me, faith is not about arguing over the details; my faith is about embodying the core principles of Islam, and spirituality in general: acting decently, forgiving before judging, and looking for the good in people. During my time in college, I have found this sense of faith in many surprising places, and it can be a source of great inspiration and strength. I have found a sense of faith in my dear friends who have supported me in times of need and celebrated the successes of my college career. I have found a sense of faith in a graveyard on the first beautiful day of spring, when so much else seemed to be missing from my world. I have found a sense of faith in the joy of a child’s smile while recovering from a surgery that gave him a fresh start to life. And I have found a sense of faith in the quiet solitude of a sunset on a fall day, when all the small concerns that can occupy my time are swept away by the simple grandeur of life. In the midst of sorrow or happiness, in the grand moments and especially in the little ones, faith has become my core and my guide. Faith is about embracing the unknown, with a sense of clarity and purpose. It is my deep sense of a greater meaning and order to life; a purpose to my existence, even it seems beyond me at times.
Prayers of the People
We now come to the time in our service when we turn our hearts and minds to prayer and lift up our lives and ourselves to God. As we pray together this morning, I will conclude each petition “God, in your mercy.” Please respond, “Hear our prayer.” Please assume an attitude and posture of prayer by either remaining seated, standing, kneeling, or coming to the communion rail as we sing together our call to prayer, “Lead Me, Lord.”
God of serendipity, we give thanks for those moments in our lives that we could not have planned and yet which, in the surprise of grace, exceed our every hope and aspiration. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of hospitality, we are grateful for the communities in which we have received the joy of fellowship, and we invite your Spirit to guide us to be a people of extraordinarily hospitable grace. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of peace, we pray for a world that is kind, just, and compassionate amidst diversities of perspective, experience, and voice. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of adventure, we pray for the perseverance, attention, and self-knowledge to take the path of spiritual seeking that, while risky, promises a deeply worthwhile reward. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Invisible God, we who have never seen your face pray for the grace to see you in the faces of all those we encounter this week, and to display in our faces the radiance of your glory. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of wholeness, we give thanks for those in our lives who accompany us back from darkness and despair to health and vitality of life. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Ever-present God, we are grateful that even when we try to flee from your presence, you remain alongside us, and provide us companions and comforters to lead us into more truth. Grant us grace also to accompany and comfort those we are given to walk alongside in the path of life. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Faithful God, remind us this day and each day that life is good; morning is good; prayer is good; grace is good; love is good; family is good; and you are good; that we may embody goodness and light in your world. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God who calls us into community, help us to live as communities that embody the richness of prayer and ritual that we may nurture and grow faithful people for lives that will be transformative in society and the world. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Merciful God, help us to find the resources in our faith to be people of common ground, living deeply, practicing meaningful action, and cultivating meaningful connections with others. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of grandeur, help us to embrace the unknown that in the quiet solitude of a sunset, when all of the small concerns that can occupy our time are swept away, we may enjoy the simple grandeur of life. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
And now, with the confidence of children of God, we are bold to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.