Archive for the ‘This I Believe’ Category

May 15

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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John 13:31-35

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Text of the reflections is unavailable at this time.

May 9

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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John 15:917

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May 17

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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Acts 1:15–17, 21–26

John 17:6–19

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BU Today - Marsh Chapel’s Annual “This I Believe Sunday”: Grads Share Journeys of Faith at BU

Tom Batson:

Often, sitting in prayer, alone or in community, Dean Hill’s reflection echoes through my thoughts. The phrase is a striking one, a truthful one. It is one that interweaves faith and lived experienced with brevity and poignancy. Mind and heart, love and loss, reflection and action, all experience gives heartfelt substance to the sentence. As I reflect upon the end of my BU experience, I hear and feel the echoes of the phrase once again.

“Death makes us mortal, facing death makes us human.”

2017- A Death Within Democracy: In January of 2017, I sat and watched our nation fall prey to privilege, deception, and fear. In this year, our country’s blinding historical hatred crept to the fore. In this moment, I was challenged to find belief in love, in the face of hate.

Listen to Toni Morrison. In, Song of Solomon, a work filled with the complexities of reobtaining identity in the face of death she writes, “Give me hate, Lord…I’ll take hate any day. But don’t give me love. I can’t carry it…it’s too heavy. Jesus, you know, you know all about it. Ain’t it heavy? Jesus? Ain’t it heavy?”

2018- A Brush with Death: In June of 2018, I sat helpless at the bedside of my former girlfriend, as she battled cancer and pneumonia simultaneously. In this moment, I became witness to the strength of the human spirit and body. Her full recovery in the face of death was an awe-inspiring act of courage and vulnerability. In this moment, I was challenged to find belief in the joy of perseverance.

Listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson. After the death of his young son, he reflects upon the strength of the human spirit writing, “Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old heart! — it seems to say — there is victory yet for all justice.”

2019- “O Untimely Death”: In July of 2019, I sat in my dorm room, grieving, unable to tear my eyes from three short words. The night’s reading assignment during summer term, Shakespeare’s King Lear, a play consumed by death, felt all too timely. In this moment, I mourned the death of former BU chaplain and theologian, my grandfather, Dr. F. Thomas Trotter. In this moment, I was challenged to find belief in peace, in a tragic time.

Listen to F. Thomas Trotter. In an op-ed on his personal love of baseball and time he wrote, “Time can be friend or enemy. We can save time, waste time, redeem time, lose time, make time, and serve time. If basketball and football help us celebrate our struggle with time constraints, baseball is timeless. It assures us of the possibility that life may be meaningful without the rush of time.”

2020- Uncertainty in Death: In March of 2020, I sat silently in traffic. Curling slowly along PCH, I pondered the abrupt end to my BU experience in the wake of COVID-19. Once home, my mind wandered aimlessly in the silence of the unknown. In this moment, I was challenged to believe in hope, consumed by uncertainty.

Listen to Abraham Lincoln. Surrounded by death on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln provided hope to an uncertain nation proclaiming, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Conclusions, climaxes, closings, culminations, death. All, instill an opportunity to discover belief.

I believe that even in our encounters with death, God’s presence actively challenges us to explore hope, peace, joy, and love. Advent, rebirth, rediscovery.

“Death makes us mortal, facing death with hope makes us human.”

“Death makes us mortal, facing death with peace makes us human.”

“Death makes us mortal, facing death with joy makes us human.”

“Death makes us mortal, facing death with love makes us human.”

I am grateful to be human.

Thanks be to God.


Celie Johnson:

Four years ago, when I came to Boston, I knew that it would be a transition, and I knew there would be challenges. I chose to attend Wheelock College, a small liberal arts school specializing in education, human development, and child life. Things went well, and I was thriving as a typical college student from a small town in Alabama. That May, two weeks before I was to fly back, I received an email that would change everything . Wheelock College as I knew it was closing in June 2018, and would be merging with Boston University. I cried, I yelled, and I prayed my way through everything. I returned to Boston ready for the challenge and a new normal. Additionally, I was also determined to stay true to my faith. The most important thing for me was to find a church and a church family, especially then. Soon, I found my prayers answered at Marsh Chapel and got the internship of my dreams. The lessons I have learned during my time at Marsh Chapel will stay with me for the rest of my life. The first time I attended Night prayer at Marsh junior year, I immediately felt at home; I don’t know if it was the stained glass or the sound of the organ, but it felt so familiar to me as a cradle Episcopalian. In between prayers and meditations, I felt the Holy Spirit flow through the nave. It was at this moment that I knew I had found my second home.

Truly, I believe that things happen for a reason, whether we are prepared or not. I believe that God gets us through anything life throws our way. I believe that with God, all things can be possible, if we just have faith. Our lives, and our faith, prepare us for the transitions that life brings.

Alec Vaughn:

I believe in the human race’s ability to build family: that we may find company with each other no matter where we are in the world, what language we speak, or what background we hold. I am what they call a wash ashore, a transplant. My parents relocated us from Maryland to the Cape when I was the ripe age of three. Growing up with no relatives in the North, I had to build my own family.

The village that raised me sent me off to BU in January of 2017 where I would be given the same task, building another family. At Boston University I have developed yet another list of family members. From classmates, dormmates, professors, and mentors, I have felt the same kind of care, respect, and concern that I do from my own biological family.

I believe that God is with us and in us and beside us. God has never left my side and has walked with me through these past four years. God brought me into community and into family here at BU. As I prepare to enter the next phase of my life my memories here will not fade because family doesn’t go away. They are always with you. This I believe, that we grow closer to God when we are with God’s children. That our faith grows in the power of love and understanding when we communicate and demonstrate these principles in our daily actions.

My faith at Boston University grew deeper roots as I saw the value of being involved in a religious community here at Marsh chapel. The ability to seek and build fellowship among my peers and be open about faith has helped me develop a certainty about my beliefs and actions, knowing that wherever I go I walk with Christ.

This I believe. That my family here at Boston University will be the catalyst for change that this world so greatly demands. That we will be the next greatest generation of scholars, leaders, educators, and change makers in the world, never quitting and always striving to make a difference. This I believe, that we shall never stop striving to be the best that we can be.

This I believe, that in our search for the truth in our life our calling is revealed to us, one step at a time. We are all called to fill some role in the world and as we seek this calling may we find family and friends along the way. That we may be blessed with people that support and love us.

My family here at Boston University has brought me closer to God, a gift I hope to share with my family in the future. I hope that we may all feel God’s presence in our lives as we prepare the next chapter of our lives.

Hillary Santiago Alos:

After finishing my undergraduate studies, I didn’t know that I would be able to attend a university in the United States. Even though I had faith in God, I never expected such a door to be open for me, but God always works in mysterious ways that come to test the faith of those who believe in him. After my acceptance at Boston University everything seemed like a dream; everything was perfect, the people were friendly, Boston was beautiful, and the professors were very supportive. But nothing lasts forever, and two weeks into my M.Div .program, a category five hurricane impacted my home in Puerto Rico. For two weeks, I didn’t know anything about the status of my family, and it affected me mentally

Despite this tragedy, I saw God’s hand leading me one step at a time. I accidentally found a job after having a casual conversation with a lady. That gave me peace to be able to cover my expenses, but I never thought that I would also be supporting my family financially in Puerto Rico for almost four months. I saw God in every professor and classmate that came to see me and share words of encouragement. Now in my last semester, I’m surprised at how fast the time has passed. After everything that happened, I can’t stop thinking if those events were ways for God to show me how to learn to be patient

This year began with more challenges in Puerto Rico. A 6.3 earthquake occurred in January, affecting many families. However, people saw a symbol of God’s presence in that event. The earthquake caused half of a church that was more than a hundred and fifty years old to collapse. However, an open Bible on top of the altar with a piece of bread, beside it that survived the earthquake gave hope to many people that God was still in control.

After three years of studying at Boston University, I was looking forward to celebrating my graduation and closing this chapter of my life to explore new possibilities. But once again, another test of patience called COVID-19 has come to disrupt my reality. However, in this, I believe: “therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [Matthew 6:34] These past three years have been a journey of learning, of growth, of taking one step at a time, and being patient. The future is uncertain, but my trust in God is permanent. Today I choose to work for others and believe that God will give me the strength to take the right step and help those that now need spiritual guidance.

May 12

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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Acts 9:36-30

John 10:22-30

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Jonathan Allen - JD - Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory and Civil Rights Law; LAW'19

This I Believe:

We are all God’s children,

Interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent.

This I Believe:

Our diversity is our strength and our power.

This I Believe:

God sides with the oppressed and is actively working throughout the world to liberate those under the weight of oppression, injustice, and deprivation of life, liberty, and dignity.

This I Believe:

We have more in common than we think and therefore, share a bond that if activated can disrupt forces of evil and injustice in our world.

This I Believe:

That all things are possible and that with the power of possibility we can create a more just and equitable world.

This I Believe:

The best is yet to come and that with faith, hope, and love we are indeed better together.

This I Believe:

If God is the Creator, and we are God’s Creation, then the best way to get to know more about God is to spend more time with what God has made.

This I Believe:

Life is a collection of moments; therefore, we must cherish each one.

This I Believe:

NO weapon formed against us shall prosper, we are more than conquers.

This I Believe:

God is greater, wiser, smarter, more caring, and more involved in our lives than our human capacity can conceive.

This I Believe:

We have an obligation, a collective responsibility, to treat all living things with dignity and respect. And thus, our obligation requires that we work diligently to eradicate dehumanization.

This I Believe:

Irrespective of our religious affirmations, God’s love and heart for justice transcends doctrine.

I believe in our capacities to make change. I believe that we are inherently good.

I believe that anything that divides us is counter-goodness and Anti-God.

I believe that regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, educational level, religious background, gender, or even political party, that we need each other.

I believe that we are greater than our worst mistake or misjudgment, and are therefore, worthy of forgiveness and restoration.

I believe God is everywhere, capable of living in everyone, and can do anything.

I believe, we, as God’s offspring, are equipped to foster greater harmony in our communities through empathy and intentionality.

I believe that leaders concerned with social transformation must take care of themselves by developing self- awareness, social-awareness, and spiritual-awareness.

This I Believe:

That LOVE is the answer to all things. This I Believe!

Carolyn Hoffman - BA - International Relations; CAS'19

If the past four years have taught me anything, it is that life can be unpredictable. The major you began freshman year in has absolutely no interest to you anymore? Sure. The dryer in the laundry room does not actually dry your clothes in one cycle? You bet. The BU Bus is not around the corner as the app claims but is instead all the way at the medical campus? Every other day it seems.

But in all seriousness, my time as an undergraduate student at Boston University has fast-tracked my life from being a 17-year-old nervous about how to spend the weekends to a 21-year-old who is employed, in a graduate program and with a partner I want to spend the rest of my life with. This evolution did not happen overnight; it happened over minutes, hours, days, weeks and years of hard work, late night snacks and purchasing of face masks that claimed to rejuvenate my extremely tired-looking face.

I have mental illness, and for the last year I’ve been battling depression. I’ve had anxiety for almost my whole life, and I began seeing a therapist when I was 10. In high school I began medication for generalized anxiety and it made a world of difference. My sophomore year in college I began having panic attacks, and I started additional medication for that. But depression is unfamiliar to me, and that has made my mental illnesses even more unpredictable.

As someone with mental illness in her family, you could say that I was genetically predisposed to it. But as a “type A” student at a challenging university, I would say that predisposed me to mental illness even more. My longing for perfection in all aspects of my life—academics, extracurriculars, relationships etc.—is countered by the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day, and it is impossible to make everyone happy while making sure I am happy.

I, like many students, appear perfectly fine on the outside because I am able to hide behind the façade of my resume. President of this, co-chair of that, Honors in this...the list goes on but the reality is skewed. Too often I fear that disclosing my mental illness will result in others’ thinking I am less capable and less stable. But I realize that in doing so, I am preventing myself from living authentically.

I believe that if we talk about our mental illness experiences, not only would mental illness become less stigmatized but the world would also become a better place. Being vulnerable with loved ones and strangers is scary but necessary if we wish to create a more compassionate and empathetic society. If we hide our stories, we do ourselves the injustice of limiting support and failing to speak our truth.

I have mental illness, but mental illness doesn’t have me. I am not defined by my mental illness and neither are you. I have faith that we can join together by sharing our stories in order to eliminate, once and for all, the silent suffering of those with mental illness.

Katherine Ward - BS - Biomedical Engineering; ENG'19

My journey these last four years through Boston University and my spiritual growth journey are intertwined and inseparable. The physical journey to Boston wasn’t trivial: home is 918 miles away, my closest distant relative is in Philadelphia and the closest person from my high school graduating class was going to college in Washington, D.C. I quickly realized when I got here that the culture I grew up in and the culture of Boston University were vastly different.

I was alone.

I knew regardless of where I went to college that I wanted to form my own religious affiliation now that I had left the private Presbyterian school I attended for 12 years. I came to Marsh Chapel my first Sunday at Boston University because it was the closest walk from Warren Towers. I’m not sure whether it was the space, the stained glass, or the music but Marsh instantly felt familiar. While I personally identified with the Episcopal tradition, I never felt the need to look elsewhere for a church home once I came to Marsh.

So I stayed.

I stayed until the people became familiar faces and then close friends. I kept coming long enough that I eventually grew out of my habit of sitting alone in the pews on Sunday and then heading straight to study to Mugar library alone for the rest of the day. I became an advocate for the small community of Episcopal students on campus and worshipped regularly with the Episcopal chaplains Cameron Partridge and then Karen Coleman. I began to look forward to the community dinners and even studying for finals because of the study retreats organized by Brother Larry. I found my community and my family, my home away from home.

Now that I have attended my last community dinner and my last study retreat, I can look back on this whirlwind trip through Boston University. I can’t imagine what my journey would have looked like without Marsh, as it was an integral part of every week I spent on campus. Once I paused to reflect a bit, I realized that God was behind all of this. God’s spirit is in this space, the people who fill it, and the sounds that resonate inside of it.

About this time next week, my journey through Boston University will be complete.

Maybe I’ll return back to Boston and to this community at Marsh that I’ve come to call family, or maybe I won’t. But, no matter what, the experiences and memories I’ve formed here are coming along with me for the next leg of the journey.

Karey Statin - BS/MS - Political Science and Urban Affairs; CAS 18' and MET'19

I believe that we can learn to live as one human race. We have the capacity to eradicate the embedded racism that has been reinforced by fear and greed. We have the intelligence to cure all diseases physical and mental, if we choose to work together and share all experiences and knowledge. We have the strength to overcome all challenges foreign and domestic, external and internal, if we unite as one. We have the power to decimate all forces of evil, if we join together in faith. We have the love to conquer hate, if we individually and collectively treat everyone the way we would like to be treated.

I believe that in order to achieve our real and true potential, we must be willing to change. We must seek the truth and release the lies we have been taught. We must accept our own faults and strive to make the right corrections. We must be willing to learn and acknowledge the commonalities that we share with others that don’t look like us. We must face our fears and denounce the hypocrisy that created, and continue to fuel them. We must relinquish our unfounded advantages, to remove unfair disadvantages imposed on others. We must sacrifice our gains to empower those who have been denied opportunities through systematic oppression. We must, with purpose and intention, visually and expressively change positively to encourage others to embrace our change, and to make the same change for themselves.

I believe, because after initially coming to Boston University in 1978 and experiencing the positive change of attitudes and behaviors toward each other showing a new respect of individual persons and cultures. Now, nearly two generations later, I believe because in spite of all the chaos and pessimism, I see optimism in the eyes of my schoolmates here at BU, and I hear optimism in the expressions and conversations of my classmates. So, I know we are headed in the right direction.

Finally, I believe with our Creator guiding and leading us all the way, we will all become the best versions of ourselves, as He who began a good work in us has and is careful to see it to completion.

Denise-Nicole Stone - BS - International Relations; CAS'19

My sophomore year, after reading the book, This I Believe which compiled accounts from the NPR segment, I wrote my own version. When thinking about writing this, I went back to it, curious to see what has changed in the past two years. I wrote that I believed in presence and appreciation, that these tenants drove the core of my being.

This assessment holds generally true. However, I think I would define it differently now. Now, I say that I believe in bearing witness. Bearing witness to the beauty, heartbreak and complexity of life. I think this journey; the good, horrible, and mundane moments of life, is sacred and worthy of sincere attention.

My BU experience, and especially the past two years, has been full of opportunities to explore new topics in a variety of situations. They have taken me to Israel, Geneva, South Africa and St. Louis. They have asked me to explore restorative justice, international responses to conflict, peacebuilding, the shortcomings of aid and the challenges of community. I have seen the capacity of people to address challenges and collaborate for healing, and to do immense harm to one another.

Bearing witness is not merely to see. It is to allow all that we have seen to change us and alter how we approach the world. It is active. It is a commitment to hold the stories of those we have met and to carry them with us. It is a commitment to try to understand what can be understood and above all to honor our human connections. I believe in sitting with tension and discomfort, wrestling with pain and love in community and asking questions of myself and others. How am I contributing to this situation? How can I disrupt cycles of harm? What are our responsibilities to one another?

What I believe has changed slightly since Sophomore year, it has evolved and been clarified by my experiences. The college years are dedicated to such growth. It is a period of near constant change and opportunity. As I leave this space, I hope life continues to teach me, challenge me and that in 2 years I will be able to further refine my beliefs.

I want to live in a way that interrupts harm, that bears witness to all of life and that honors my connection to all people.

This I believe.


May 13

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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John 17:6-19

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Robin Masi - Ed.D - Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; SED'18 

I believe in the power of art to transcend boundaries that words cannot provide.

I believe that living the life of an artist and teaching art students one needs to learn from those that have gone before us.

This has brought me to think about my own role model, Sister Marie deSales Dinneen and one of her role models while she attended Boston University over 50 years ago. She encouraged me to attend B.U. for my doctorate in education – her beloved alma mater.

Sr. Marie always knew she wanted to be a nun. She was a devoted sister, teacher to the “youngsters” at Regis as she called them, and a rabid Boston sports fan.

Sr. first attended Harvard University on a full scholarship. She studied the classics which as she put it “was like crucifying myself” so she transferred to Boston University and for the next 10 years she received her PhD in art history and then another bachelors and masters from the College of Fine Arts. She never exhibited her work but wanted to be the best teacher for her students. Her own art work was phenomenal and included joyous themes of complex compositions of parades, holidays, and other multi-group outings.

Phillip Guston is one of the most well-known abstract expressionist artists whose oversized canvases of Klansmen, fat men in cigars, and other aggressive imagery was painted in violent and expressive tones of black, gray and red. His work dealt head-on with social and political issues and he has exhibited internationally for decades. I couldn’t imagine two more different people or artists. Phillip was one of Sr. Marie’s professors here at BU.

Sister once told me “My first introduction to Phillip was when I was sitting in class, in layperson’s clothing as this was after Vatican II, and he looked at me and said,

‘And I see we have Marie Dinneen from Weston. Are you one of those ladies who are here because your husband says you are a good painter?

“Not quite,” Sr. Marie recounted. “I’m a teacher at Regis College and I’m here like everybody else in that I want to learn about art.”

She recalled another conversation.

“I was early for class one day and my work was on the board ready for a critique. It was a jumble of gesture drawings of Archbishop Cushing with kids making their confirmation.”

Phillip asked ‘is that yours, Marie? I think I see a cardinal – he’s holding his hand out to the great unwashed.”

“Yes,’ she said – ‘he has a special way of doing it’ and I flung my hand out – and he said humorously, ‘that’s it, Marie, we’re the great unwashed!” They had a good laugh together and he became one of the best critiquers of her work.

“I grew to like him very much,” she said.
When she learned of her acceptance to the MFA program at CFA another professor said,

‘Marie, you’d be interested to know that the one who went to bat for you the most to get into the MFA program was Phillip.”

I believe Sr. Marie found her place here at B.U., and so did I. Just like she said I would.

I believe that when you follow those who have come before you, you always end up in the right place.

Anne Marie Kelley - MS -Project Management; MET'18

At 59 I may not be the oldest graduate this year, but I most certainly am not the youngest. However, I believe that if you are open to changing, to enriching your life through learning, you can do anything.

I believe in the power of a smile; it’s a non-verbal sign of encouragement, a universal sign of welcome, a way to say I see you and you are not alone.

I believe in the power of laughter; it can ease tense moments, make us realize that you don’t have to take everything in life so seriously.

I believe in celebrating small successes. Many of our goals in life, like pursuing a degree, will take time to achieve. Celebrating the small successes helps recharge our batteries so we can continue pursuing our goals.

I believe in faith, in yourself, in your friends and family and in God. Faith gives you the courage and strength to keep moving forward, to overcome obstacles. Faith gives you hope.

I believe it’s okay to not be perfect, even sometimes to fail; it builds coping skills and the perseverance you need to keep moving forward.

I believe in the power of grit, of holding on, of hanging in there even when times are difficult, as this prepares you for whatever happens in your life, and it is a necessary ingredient for success in whatever endeavor you undertake.

I believe in the power of asking for help and offering to help. We all have different skills and talents and sharing these talents will help us make the world a better place.

I believe in the power of embracing diversity. By learning about others you learn more about yourself. You come to realize that we have more in common than in our differences.

This commencement is a double blessing for me as my son is also graduating and earning his undergraduate degree. I know that parents of all graduates – whether from the US or from another country, no matter their race, religion or socio- economic status, want the same as I want for my son; an opportunity to have a good life, to be productive, to define and achieve their own success and happiness, to know that they are loved, and to be able to love themselves and others.

I believe it does ‘take a village’ to raise a child. It’s our job to help the next generation; to ensure that we leave this world in the hands of those capable to make the world a better place.

And, I do believe even an old dog can learn new tricks, if they are willing and if they have the love and support of family and friends. After all none of us travels this journey of life alone, we need each other to become the best version of ourselves.

Evan Armacost -BA/MA - Classical Studies; CAS/GRS'18

“Take, Lord, receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.” So begins Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe prayer that changed my life a little more

than one year ago. My faith journey at Boston University began with a certain hesitation; styles of worship and community were very different from my home parish in Evanston, IL, compounding on the homesick anxieties of going to college halfway across the country. For too long my Catholicism felt like a crystal cup I had inherited from my family and parish community: something that I was obligated to protect but that was not entirely mine. I turned instead to academics for consolation and validation, filling my schedule and my identity with studies and professional aspirations while growing increasingly empty.

As my spirit and selfhood reached a chilling nadir I embarked on my long-awaited semester abroad in Rome which would become the beginning of a pilgrimage that continues to this day. There I felt drawn to pray, to journal, to re-evaluate my life and its meaning in new ways. One word kept tugging at my heart: surrender. Such a prospect terrified me. I had spent a year and a half deeply curved in on myself in a relentless quest to achieve some ever-distant “success.” What would it mean to let go?

My wrestling inclinations came to a head during an Art History field trip to the Chiesa della Gesù, mother church of the Jesuits. From the moment I entered the church I came to the realization that for years I had been chasing my pride and ambitions ahead of God’s wishes for me. I resolved to turn my life back toward God and outside of myself, in whatever way the Lord would invite me. Be warned: “Ask and you shall receive!” Kneeling before the tomb of Saint Ignatius on the church’s left side I found an English prayer card with the text of the Suscipe.

“Whatever I have or possess You have given to me; to You I return it and hand it over to be governed by Your will.”

As I read words that promised a radical gift of self beyond my boldest imaginings I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I had never understood that this phrase, so often found in Scripture, was more than metaphor: it was an all-encompassing sensation. I became empowered and encouraged by a love I had nearly forgotten. It was then that I knew that, even if I gave God everything, I would lack nothing.

From that day to the present I have endeavored to share the love that I experienced in Rome. I make eye contact, I smile, I listen – really listen. Academics instead of an end themselves are now a means to that greatest End, God, and bring me great joy. The BU Catholic Center, always a space where I felt welcome, has become a second home. By the wisdom of the Holy Spirit I have decided to enter the Jesuits after my time at Boston University comes to an end. I do not know all that my future holds, but I have learned to trust those final words of Ignatius’ prayer:

“May you give to me only Your love and grace and I will be rich enough, nor will I ask for anything more.”

Nichholas Rodriguez - BS - Computer Engineering; ENG'18 

In my four years, I am not sure if I could reduce what I believe to a set of theological statements or ideas. I think if someone were to ask me, “what do you believe?,” I would maybe point them to the set of creedal statements that the Reverend Dean Hill mentioned months ago in a sermon titled A Word in the Wilderness. There, among other statements, he said:

“God is love...[and]
Life is a sacred journey to freedom.”

I would also maybe point to Mike McHargue’s Axioms about Faith, where he states:

“Faith is AT LEAST a way to contextualize the human need for spirituality and find meaning in the face of mortality..., [and]

God is AT LEAST the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe as experienced via a psychosocial model in human brains that naturally emerges from innate biases.”

While my theology has changed over these last four years, I would say the real change in what I believe is not exactly the base narratives of my own personal creeds, but rather my attitudes about them.

For our personal creeds deal with what it means to be.

In these last four years, I oftentimes found myself trying to find the courage to be in the midst of the many tensions that exist within our modern, globalized societies and within my own story as I wrestled with my own humanity.

In my four years here, I wrestled with doubt and the seemingly endless conflicts between my scientific intuition and my living, breathing faith.

I wrestled with the dark nights in my soul, I wrestled with failures and loss, and I wrestled with the implications of my own smallness and our Pale Blue Dot’s fragileness in a large, cold universe, and with the death of my God felt at the loss of my Freshman year’s neatly wrapped up faith. But, in the death of my God, I felt for a moment a connectedness between everything and the energy within myself keeping me alive. I felt, for a moment, existence itself.

I wrestled with what it meant to hold convictions and identities in a pluralistic world. In my four years here, I figured out really quickly that life does not make perfect sense, and that while there are wrongs and there are injustices in our world that we need to resist, I also learned that humanity’s distinct and diverse set of religious, spiritual and cultural identities are all beautiful – and that unity is not uniformity.

In my wrestling, I often felt connected to something greater. In the many conversations I had with colleagues surrounding justice, meaning, and the future of our world, there were times when I felt morealive. I felt the energy within me beating and a connection within myself to the millennia of traditions and ideas that are constantly in conversation with me. For moments, I felt the words of prophets and teachers, of the New Being and of Spirit, working through me. A few times, I felt for moments that these stories, my culture, my faith, and these conversations truly matter.

So, in my experiences I learned to be thankful, to listen, to empathize, and to engage.

We exist for the time we do, and in every moment, we have the opportunity to engage. We have the opportunity to engage with ourselves, with what we care about, with our world, with those around us, and with the Ground of Being from which we exist.

And, it is within wrestling with this holy tension and our own humanities, it is within our engaging with those of whom we may be unfamiliar, and it is within our finding the common ground(s) binding us, where we may see the face of God.

Marritt Nowak - BA - International Relations; CAS/Pardee' 18

I believe in change. Four years ago I made a decision. After fourteen years of faith-based education at my Catholic school in St. Louis, I was ready for a change. I went from a class just short of one hundred girls to my undergraduate year at BU, with nearly four thousand students from all over the world. Different. Boston University, with its promise of diversity, urban environment and New England weather promised to be the exact opposite of what I had grown accustomed to. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Of course, what we think when we first arrive as undergraduates and what we know when we leave also tend to be completely different things. Just a few weeks in to freshman year, I was invited to hear the Marsh Chapel Choir perform one of their exquisite Bach cantatas. I had always loved classical music, and a new friend would be singing, it sounded like a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. The moment I entered this space I felt overwhelmed with welcoming smiles, friendly handshakes and of course the thoughtful preaching and beautiful music. I was home.

My visits increased in frequency, cantata after cantata, fellowship events with the global ministry department, and holy week services bringing me further and further into this community, something I had not anticipated as I tried to break out of what I thought was faith boxing me in. But that wasn't the case at all, faith was the very thing opening doors to the diversity and new experiences I craved when I first began my journey. Before I knew it I was back in religion classes, eventually choosing to minor in the subject and visiting the chapel whenever I was free for interfaith fellowship events. I knew I needed to bring the welcoming spirit and positive energy I encountered in this space to more communities. This semester, I have welcomed refugees to a new country, using the warmth and earnest kindness I learned from Marsh Chapel. I had the privilege of assisting new arrivals in obtaining vital social services. It was waiting in lines or on hold, advocating for the people who had next to no one in their corner, that I learned to believe in welcome.

I arrived here unsure of what faith even means, completely out of touch with the things that I believe. The picture is not yet crystal clear, and I assume parts of it will shift and change forms throughout my life, but the pieces have begun to come together. I believe that difference is a good thing, that it makes us stronger. I believe that true community is not founded on mere tolerance, but strengthened by pluralism that embraces diversity, welcomes changes and blossoms with compassion. Going forward, I have learned not only to be open to the differences I encounter in others, but ready to accept change within myself. I came to BU with a desire to change the world; I leave here with the hope that the world will continue to change me.


May 14

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

John 14:1-14

Click here to listen to the meditations only

Graduating Students Share Their Spiritual Journey

Ian Quillen - BA - Neuroscience; Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences, CAS/KHC'17

There is a saying that home is where the heart is. When I first came to BU, I wanted to create a new space that I could call home. Perhaps I could have gone further away from Brookline, the town near Boston where I grew up, to accomplish this. But when I came to Marsh Chapel my freshman year, I found a place that grounded me where I could place roots.

Marsh Chapel has been described as a heart for the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city. I would take the first part of this phrase and add an “h” to the word heart: Marsh chapel has become a hearth for me, as well as a heart for the city and a home. When I say hearth, I mean a space where people can find rest, food, and warmth. Most of all, I mean a space where people can find solace, grow, and change. I believe in building such hearths through acts of hospitality.

This belief stems from spending Tuesday nights cooking dinner for students in a basement kitchen and sharing it over conversation and laughter. It emerges from nights I would spend cleaning dishes and just listening to the simple peace of water flowing and dirt being washed away. It comes from my experiences sitting down with people and yielding space and time to them—space for them to comfortably be themselves, and time for them to tell me their stories.

I believe that one of the greatest challenges as a student is learning how to listen. This is more than just paying attention in class so that you don’t miss something. It involves not thinking about how you’ll respond to what someone is telling you, and just being present with them. Listening is becoming comfortable with your own silence so that you can discern the voices of others, the sound of your surroundings, and maybe the gentle whisper of the Divine. Once you’ve discerned that, you then have a choice to make: how do I respond to what I’ve heard?

I believe that sometimes the hardest power to master is not knowing when to act, but knowing when to yield. This is not the same as giving up, or being complacent. Yielding is knowing how much you can do to support someone before stepping back, and letting them make decisions for themselves with the tools they’ve been given. It is knowing when to let go of your ego, while still preserving your worth as a person, for the sake of another. It is knowing that you don’t have to fix every problem to have hope, hope that survives best at the hearth you’ve created for yourself and for others when all else is said and done.

These are the beliefs I’ve developed at Marsh Chapel. They are the flames that nurture me as I leave my home. They form my hearth, and where my heart is.

Svea Schreiner - M.Ed. - Educational Leadership & Policy, SED'17

A year ago, I was sitting on a rickety front porch in a place known as Holler #5, surrounded by some of the kindest, sweetest people I’ll ever meet, who welcomed me and my husband into their lives with open arms. For two years, I lived and worked as a teacher in one of the poorest counties in the U.S., McDowell County, West Virginia. Life is extremely difficult in this rural, abandoned coal- country community; it was for us during our time there and it has been for life-long residents for many generations.

Although I’ve moved back to New England and it’s been 11 months since then, it still sometimes feels surreal to be here in Boston, a place that has got to be about as close to a polar opposite of the Holler if there ever was one.

Much has been made in the last year or so of the differences between people in rural America versus those in so-called “coastal elite” urban centers like Boston. The differences are many, and the culture shock was very real as I adapted from a life spent in the Northeast to one in rural Appalachia, which seems to still be at least a few decades behind the times, for better or worse. I experienced a second round of culture-shock coming back a few years later, reintegrating into “modern” life and going to graduate school full-time this year here in the city.

But for all the ways we’re different, there are also many ways that we’re the same.

First, people are good and want to be there for each other. When we first moved into our little West Virginia home, squished in next to 30 or so other homes in the hollow between two steep and lush tree-covered mountains, our neighbors brought us vegetables from their gardens, cakes baked in their kitchens, and invited us to drink iced tea with them on their porches.

Here in Boston, I’ve seen this essential goodness studying alongside talented fellow teachers and accomplished, principled professors. I’ve seen incredible dedication and commitment to equity for children in classrooms across the country and the world, and a willingness to sacrifice and work tirelessly to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to succeed.

Secondly, people are complicated, and they cannot be reduced to any single stereotype or label. It’s very easy to write off the West Virginia contingent as an ignorant, narrow-minded monolith. I can tell you from direct experience that this is not the case. Conversely, it’s also easy to assume all of us Yankees are cold, self-centered, and unfriendly; stereotypes I heard from WV friends that are similarly untrue.

The truth is, there is no one label that can possibly encapsulate all of the beauty and joy and pain of a person’s life. Everybody has a story, and we should acknowledge the complexity of those individual stories in every person we meet.

Most importantly, we all have the same amount of God in us, regardless of where we came from, what we’ve done, or where we’re going. Looking below the surface, finding the essential goodness, and practicing love over suspicion, mercy over judgment; these are the things I believe in.

In the collision of the two disparate worlds I’ve inhabited over the last few years, I’ve learned that the thing we need most ourselves and the thing others need most from us is simply this: grace. In the face of all that separates, this common thread unites, and that unity and connection are always worth pursuing.

Magdalena Buczek- MAMS, GMS'17

I discovered these words of Thomas Merton the year before starting a Masters in Medical Sciences: “Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength, and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak...Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me. Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself, than strong in Him whom I cannot understand.” This thought haunted me as I struggled to believe that one day I could be a physician working with patients who experience homelessness and incarceration. Questions buzzed through my mind: Was I cut out for medical school? Could I take the intensity that everyone warns about? Standing strong in God was scarier than letting go of self-doubt.

Anxiety and fear crept into every day during the first semester. I would cry in an empty classroom, and five minutes later pull myself together enough to walk into histology lab and study slides of kidney tubules. Nighttime was (and still is) the worst for my anxiety. I sat paralyzed at the thought of the work in front of me.

In the second semester, several things happened: my brother had a serious skiing accident followed by major surgery; a friend attempted suicide; a high school classmate overdosed; and a young friend nearly died in a car accident. All the while, I was attempting to hold it together in my coursework. In the midst of this confusion and my own anxiety, I could think only one thing: “Lord, I cannot do this alone.” I was overwhelmed with work and emotions, and so I invited God to be beside me one moment, one hour, and one day at a time. Today, I told myself, I will attend lecture, review the thyroid physiology chapter and the morning’s pharmacology lecture, and map the cranial nerves. I asked God to help me focus just on that, now and for the remainder of the day, and to worry about tomorrow when and if it gets here. The beloved people in my life had taught me in a harsh way that tomorrow is no guarantee.

I often feel guilty about my anxiety, especially when I have the privileges of an excellent education, a safe home, and abundant food and support systems. I don’t know why I feel it, or why it keeps returning. But I know that I have a responsibility to use my privilege to address the injustices, poverty, and violence that plague our world. I do my best to address my anxiety, both for my wellbeing and for the wellbeing of those I serve.

My anxiety is always nearby. Managing it will be a lifetime’s work, requiring vigilance and self-reflection. May my self-doubts be constant reminders that I cannot do this alone. May my fears be invitations to be in relationship with God. Alone, I am weak, but God’s faithfulness, forgiveness, and love are infinite. Thus, in God my strength is unbounded, and I should not fear my strength.

Adrienne Lotoski - MS - Arts Administration MET'17

This I believe.

I believe in journeys. I believe that life is a journey, whether short or long, it is a continual of time. We are all here for a journey through time, a journey to experience the preciousness of life and the bonds of humankind.

I believe in sharing. I believe that sharing helps others. Sharing your knowledge with someone is to give them a bond and to opens the door to friendship. Sharing a meal with someone is to give someone substance for being. Sharing your time with someone is to share experiences.

I believe in experiences. I believe with each and every experience comes learning and lessons. Learning should be constant and never ending. And lessons are necessary for providing boundaries and guidelines to ensure future experiences are meaningful. Experiences are also to be shared to create eternal bonds of family and friendship. What is life is we don’t have family and friends to share our experiences?

I believe in happiness. I believe that the gift of happiness manifests itself in smiles. Smiles can be simply shared with your family, friends, neighbors and strangers. A simple smile can change someone’s day and can provide a ray of happiness.

I believe in helping others. I believe it is important to help those that can’t help themselves. Help is one way of facilitating another person’s journey through life. Help someone else’s journey so they benefit from your knowledge and your goodness. How difficult is it to hold a door open, pick up someone’s dropped item, or to invite someone to share a cup of coffee?

I believe in the importance of understanding. I believe that understanding is necessary for taking the journey through life. With understanding comes the ability to accept or reject, to make amends and to move on. With understanding comes knowledge and with knowledge comes respect.

I believe in respect. I believe that each and every one of us is to be respected for our beliefs including those that religious, political, scientific or sociological. Respect fosters relationships which foster knowledge which fosters good will.

I believe goodness exists in each person. I believe each person is born with goodness and that it is always there, even if it just under the surface. It might not always be easy to find the goodness, but once it is found, it can help others with their journeys.

I believe in our children. I believe it is in our children that we deliver the messages of happiness, experiences, respect and education. By teaching our children these messages, we are teaching them how to experience the journey of life and understanding.

I believe in education. A Boston University education. With education comes knowledge and with knowledge comes the ability to change. The ability to change things for the better - to make your life better, to make your brethren better, to make your community better and to make the world better.

This I believe.

Kasey Shultz - BA -Sociocultural Anthropology; Spanish; African Studies, CAS/KHC'17

1,351 days ago, on matriculation Sunday, I came to the chapel for the first time for worship and sat in the third row of pews, trying to ignore the dull ache in my chest that had taken up residence ever since my parents had left the night before to fly back to Seattle. Nervous and alone, I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. But then, the ethereal sound of the choir filled this space, resonating against the stone walls and washing over me in waves. We sang the same hymns I had sung since childhood and I was wrapped up in the familiar, comforting rhythms of liturgy. That ache in my chest evaporated, the nervousness fled, and I knew I was home.

In the four years since then, I’ve spent hours here singing and praying, studying and meditating, laughing and eating, questioning and listening. Located at the heart of campus, the chapel has also been at the heart of my four years at BU. It has introduced me to new friends and ways of thinking about faith and vocation while grounding me in a community of believers that was always there to support and encourage me. In the midst of a cohort of people from various faith traditions and backgrounds, I was challenged to define my faith and to lay out a vision of what I believe—my own personal credo.

For one thing, my time at the chapel has helped me to realize that I believe people are inherently good. But also that we make mistakes—like, a lot of mistakes. I believe that God’s love for us is so vibrant and pure that it wipes all those mistakes away. I believe that all people are connected to each other and that we need to honor that connection by taking care of and respecting one another. I believe in the baptism of rain on a fall day and the communion of food shared with friends. I believe that science and religion complement each other, that God speaks into our silences and blooms into our empty spaces, and that the Holy Spirit lives in gusting winds and tranquil waters, in babbling toddlers and freely shed tears. I believe that worship requires a community and community requires forgiveness and forgiveness requires grace. I believe that doubt is the strongest form of faith and that no person or tradition can fully comprehend the complex, paradoxical, and timeless nature of God. I believe that we are called to welcome those who have been rejected, to speak for those who have been silenced, and to lift up those who have been oppressed. I believe that prayer is a conversation, worship is a relationship and scripture is a promise.

And above all, I believe that God loves, a love that is freely given, a love that we can never avoid or escape or ignore—a love that changes us and a love that frees us. A love that moves us to believe.

May 8

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

Luke 24:44-53

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Terry Baurley

In the Episcopal baptismal covenant; the bishop asks; Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. The respond is I will with God’s help.

As a Criminal justice major, I learned about truth in sentencing, drugs and society, the challenges of reintegration, restorative justice, health challenges of the incarcerated, victim impact statements, drug, juvenile, veteran diversion courts and environmental advocacy, policy and law. I believe that police should wear body armor and body cameras. There are courageous individuals fire, police, first responders and emergency personnel, that every day respond to fatal car accidents, veteran suicide, opiate overdoses, accidental death, homicides and events such as the Marathon bombings and 9/11. My hero was my father in law a NY detective and Korean war veteran.

What I believe is the inherent dignity of each and every human being. Each human life is worthy of dignity and respect. I believe in One God the Father Almighty. I believe God loves each and every one of us no matter gender, race, religion or preference. I believe that everyone has the right to clean water, clean air, safe housing, health care, an education and a just and fair judicial system. The founding principles of our County are based on individual rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by our Supreme Court and Constitution. Free speech comes with enormous responsibilities. Let us use it wisely. I believe that every voice counts. Every vote counts. Make your voice and vote count. Bring a friend to the polls in November.

I believe that we need to pass comprehensive gun reform, not to take away rights but to ensure responsible ownership. I believe in changing the laws for gun shows, national background checks, and extended waiting periods.  I believe in attending House and Senate sessions. I believe in meeting with your legislators. Write to them, lobby them, demand change. Change is hard, change is difficult. Courage is the Sandy Hook teacher’s pensions that has called for the divestment from gun manufactures. I have divested from gun manufacturing and believe in socially responsible impact investing. Courage was seeing Matt Richards mother and sister at the Louis D Brown, Peace for Jorge Mother’s Day Walk for peace last year after losing their son and brother in the Marathon bombing. Today, is the twentieth anniversary and the walk is to the state house. Walking today are the personnel from the emergency rooms and hospitals, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and those that have lost loved ones.

This quote is from the Mother’s Day Walk for peace, “Peace is not the absence of Violence. Peace is the presence of Healing, Reconciliation and accountability.” “The 7 principals for peace are love, unity, faith, hope, courage, justice, and forgiveness.” One way we can remember those that have died is to remember what they believed, what they valued, and who they loved. To remember them is to continue to carry on the work and continue to call for reform and change. God so loved the world and so must we.

Prayer for Social Justice:

Grant O God that your holy and life giving spirit may so move every human heart (and especially the hearts of the people of this land that barriers that divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease, that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen

(The Book of Common Prayer)

Benjamin Coleman

Picture a man living by the ocean. He lives well, surrounded by friends and family, spending his days on the warm, bright beach with the cool ocean breeze at his back. He’s a deeply religious man, going to church every week and diligently doing charitable works. One day, interrupting this man’s paradise, a forecaster announces that a hurricane is headed toward them that will certainly destroy the town. The man, instead of panicking, resolves to stay, thinking, “I am an upright Christian. I know God loves me. God will surely save me.” Later, as the clouds roll in and the wind picks up, his son visits him, pleading, “Father, please come away with me. The storm will flood your home.” The man responds, “Oh my son of little faith, the storm is merely a test. I am religious, so I know God will save me.” Then, as the wind howls and the thunder booms, a police officer passes the man’s house, yelling to the man, “The hurricane is here. Can’t you see that the sea is rising? Let me get you away from the beach.” But the man resolutely states, “I’m not moving, for God loves me, and God alone will save me from the storm.”

If we lived in the world of the Bible, this story would end much like the ending of Abraham and Isaac: divine intervention where God literally stops Abraham’s hand from killing his son. The man would be swooped away by an angel and flown to safety, or Christ, walking on water, would appear to calm the waters of the storm. But we do not live in that world; the man drowned. By just opening a newspaper, we can clearly see that inequity, suffering, and malice pervades our world with no apparent grand purpose behind it all. In this world, it is easy to resign to Nietzcheism, that life is only about one’s ability to thrive over others. However, this only serves to perpetuate the pain and seeming meaninglessness of existence.

When the man arrives in heaven, he angrily asks St. Peter, “Why did God let me die?” Peter answered, “Oh you fool, he tried to save you with a weatherperson, an officer, and your son. Why are you here?”

I believe in the divine orchestra. God of our time cannot be a single violin playing an isolated musical line, just as God isn’t an omnipotent, old man with a white beard. Instead, God is the sublimity of all the instruments combined, for God has the capacity to live in all of us if we truly carry out our charge to love one another. Just as instruments support and build each other up in symphonies to create something greater than its parts divided, humans, loving each other, must do so in this life to evoke the divine. So, in what do I believe? Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est: Where charity and love abide, God is also there.

Mike Chan

For most of my life, I felt like I was living two different lives. There’s the life that everybody sees, where I’m kind, helpful, and considerate. It’s what people would tell you if you asked them who I was, and it’s probably how I’d describe myself too. I wouldn't be lying, but I wouldn't be telling you the truth either. Because there’s the life that everyone sees, and there’s the life that I see. In this life, I’m sick, and I’m dying: I’m someone struggling with depression.

I had always thought that being depressed was the consequence of tragedy and suffering. I know many believe it is a natural condition that everyone encounters – and overcomes – at some point in their lives. But depression is not always synonymous with sadness or grief. Rather, it is a sickness that nullifies life into a dull melancholy. Depression, at its core, strips away the spirit of makes us alive.

Before my depression, I had defined myself as a hard worker, as someone who was mentally tough and strong. But when I got sick, I found myself losing whatever enthusiasm or energy I had for life. Everything, from talking to friends and going to class, became tedious and difficult, and I soon found myself paralyzed with anxiety, unable to do much of anything but lay in bed all day. It took me a long time to realize that I was in trouble and in need of help. And even then, I continued to see myself as unworthy of anyone’s love, thinking no one would actually pity me enough to care for my well-being. But depression often traps you in a prison of self-loathing and delusion. It leaves a void within your own vulnerable psyche, and only compassion and forgiveness can fill and overflow it.

It was hard finding the courage to share my experience with others, and even harder learning how to receive their support once I did. Initially, I felt embarrassed to be associated with the stigmas of mental illness and be seen as a rehabilitating failure. But the empathy that persevered through strangers and close friends alike helped me accept the notion that it was okay to be the person in need. “People might have bigger problems than you’,” a friend said, “but that doesn’t make it any less important.”

Speaking about my depression doesn’t make things easier, but it has helped me found meaning in this torturous experience. And despite the hell I’ve faced over the past six months, I am grateful for the profound insight it has given me. I now see the value of compassion, and how the good we feel comes when we help others in need. Someday, I hope I can repay the kindness given to me to those that are trapped like I once was. And I hope that, in spite of the struggles each of us face in our lives, we can make a conscious effort in ensuring that it’s a fight no one faces alone.

Clark Warner

This I believe.

I hear the voice that speaks all things into being.  I hear the still-small voice in the rainfall and in the sunrise.

I hear the still-small voice in the footsteps of passers by and in the flight of the birds overhead. 

Over these last three years I have heard it more clearly than ever in the brilliance of my classmates at the School of the Prophets. 

That same voice, an inner voice, lives in each of us but more importantly in all of us and in the connections between us.

If we listen to the voice, we learn how to be, how to thrive in the kingdom of God.  If we listen, we learn how to be what others need of us so that they can also thrive in the kingdom of God.  If we listen, we learn how each of us belongs to the other. 

We can’t fully understand the still-small voice alone.  It is beyond us. If we listen intently and share all that we have heard with others who are also listening intently we all begin to understand. 

This I believe. That the voice of the Lord speaks a word to each of us and in community we learn the sentences, the pages, the chapters, indeed, the book. 

This voice that speaks all things into existence has re-told my story.  It has taken my shame and doubt, my worries and fears and told me to ignore them so that I can practice for a life in the Kingdom.  It has re-told my story so that I can join with confidence in the story of our existence.   

Here, at the School of Theology, as I heard the future prophets speak, I have learned to listen more intently to the still-small voice, to hear my word.  I will take my word to you, please take your words to me and to each other and together we will begin to understand and thrive as God intended. 

This I believe.  

Jaimie Dingus

I grew up in southern Virginia. My town was white, middle-class, and conservative. As a liberal Unitarian Universalist, I could not wait to move to Boston. With large UU churches and the UUA headquarters, I was convinced that everyone in Boston must be Unitarian Universalist. I thought I was moving to a place where everyone would be just like me. 

So, I was pretty shocked when I got to BU and realized actually no one here was just like me. There is diversity here, unlike anything I could have imagined. I remember the surreal experience of walking from my freshman dorm to the matriculation ceremony, and meeting someone from Bangladesh. Another time, I ate Indian food with a friend who’d grown up in India. I listened, mesmerized, as my roommate spoke to her mom on the phone, switching between English and Cantonese. The world that had been so small, grew.

As it grew, my understanding of my place within it changed too. I learned about my privilege as an educated, white, American woman. I learned that in order to fight the systems that gave me this privilege, I would have to hear a wide diversity of voices.

This year, I followed a call to build communities that facilitate positive encounters with difference. As president of BU’s Interfaith Council I have helped bring people together from different religions, people who have been taught not to work together, in order to have honest dialogue, and build community.

This I Believe

This world is filled with different people. People whose faces, histories and languages do not resemble mine, or my home community’s. Yet, my life is deeply enriched by learning from these differences. I cannot undo the world’s injustice, the hatred and pain, if I am not learning from and collaborating with these other voices. 

As I work to listen to the experiences of others, I am reminded of what connects us all. I believe in a divine light that lives within each of us. This light reminds me to love each person I come in contact with, no matter our differences. It teaches me to love their beauty and inherent goodness, even as I love their failings, ignorance, and mistakes.

This I believe, that my faith calls me to love all people and the divinity that lives in them. And as I do this to remember my own divine light. 

There was nothing like starting anew far from friends and family, to reveal the poison that is the isolation in our culture. Through our diversity, we are meant to be interconnected and yet, systems of competition, greed and hate pull us from each other.

This I believe, that by participating in community that is subversive and caring we break the walls of isolation and that give us an illusion of separateness. I have learned so much as a student here, but most of all I have learned that despite our differences and our struggles, we belong to a single human family.

May 11

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

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The This I Believe speakers from 2014 were Charlotte Saul, Jenny Hardy, Robert Lucchesi and Brian Sirman.

May 12

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

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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.

May 13

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the entire service.
Click here to hear all four reflections with interlude music.
John 15: 9-17

"This I Believe" Narratives

Michael Bruffee

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I believe that at our root we are all joyous, compassionate beings with a natural drive to be loving and kind to each other.

My spiritual journey here at Boston University all started with a question. When I was a freshman I was a little lost, and didn’t know what I wanted to do, academically or otherwise. I had lots of big questions about life, such as who am I, what is my passion, how do I help people? So I did what any college freshman would do: I went looking on Facebook.

There was this little club called the BU Zen Group that met every wednesday night, right here in the basement of Marsh Chapel, so I decided to join them for sitting meditation. As I remember, those first fifteen minutes of meditation were the longest I’d ever sat still in my life. But something about the quality of that experience resonated with me and planted a seed, for here I am five years later and I’ve dived right into the practice of Buddhism.

There was no one telling me how to live, no one telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, there was just a sense of, here, come sit down with us and experience your life as it unfolds in this moment. Find your own truth, then use that to help other people. It was astonishingly simple.

I believe in people. I believe that people love to be acknowledged, that we need to be attended to, and that deep down we all recognize that this feeling of being separate from each other, separate from the universe, separate from God, is fundamentally delusion, and that in reality we have a shared existence. We are not separate from each other, and we are certainly not separate from the universe--we’re very much a part of it! And we create suffering for ourselves and others when we forget this point and start wanting something extra out of our lives, or pushing certain things away. Rather, if we can recognize this shared existence, if we practice acceptance of everything that appears in our lives moment to moment, then we can wake up to our true compassionate nature and help this world.

Out on Marsh Plaza in front of this chapel is a statue of doves wrought from iron dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision of peace. On one side is a quote from a sermon Dr. King gave more than a few times. He said, “Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, the command to love thy enemy is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.” We have this legend here at BU that when the world finally realizes this vision of peace and brotherhood, those iron doves will be released from their pedestal and fly off into the sky. I am grateful to be at an institution which has given me the opportunity to wake up to that spirit of unconditional love. That’s not just a Christian idea--all the major religious traditions of the world teach the same thing. In Zen we call that Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way.

It’s even as simple as keeping a smile on your face. It’s the kind of smile that, when you are doing your job and helping others, appears all by itself. There’s a contagious quality to smiles and laughter--when we see someone smiling, we can’t help but follow suit, and that gives us a little bit of peace. No matter what I end up doing after graduation, it has become my aspiration in this life to share that joyfulness and peace with as many people as I can. I hope that as you go about your own lives you can, in your own way share a little piece of joy with someone. Wake up, find your own truth, help others.

Muna Sheikh

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As a Muslim student, I'm often asked questions about my views on Islam and the role that my faith plays in my own life. Over the past four years at BU, thinking critically about my faith experience and practicing my faith in a college environment, my own answers to these questions have changed considerably.

I came to college with a bias against my own faith community, and an unwillingness to associate myself with Islam. I had accepted a negative narrative about Muslims that framed Islam as something backwards, dogmatic, and incompatible with American ideals. Growing up in a family in the South Asian diaspora, I had developed an understanding of Islam that was culturally specific and didn’t always accord with my situation as an American. I didn't understand Islam well, and I was both distraught over my misunderstandings about the religion and unsure about where I could find answers to the questions that I had about my faith.

Coming to college afforded the opportunity for me to examine my faith academically and authentically. Studying, living, and interacting in an environment that encouraged me to engage in discussion and dialogues with students of different backgrounds pushed me to think critically about my interpretation of Islam. As I explored religious sources independently, for the first time, I learned to cultivate a faith practice that both respected and celebrated what was culturally normative for me and was also religiously authentic. On a personal level, my faith has helped me cope with challenges, and it has served as the backbone and motivation for everything I do.

Over time, I also came to understand that integrating into a college environment didn't necessarily mean that I had to keep my religious identity intensely private. Rather, I came to understand integration to mean embracing and appreciating my own faith as something that could offer something positive in a pluralistic environment. It meant reaching out to different faith communities to change negative stereotypes, to foster love and respect, and to replace mutual judgment and uncertainty with compassion and understanding.

Most importantly, my faith has encouraged me to think about what I offer to society, as a college student. My faith keeps me focused on the ultimate goal of using the skills I've gained at college to rectify societal injustices, alleviate human suffering, and benefit society. It's meant never losing sight of the common bond that we share with humanity, and our responsibility to help one another, unconditionally.

Over four years, my faith has become something much more than an individualized experience. Through working to stay involved in my community, by striving to serve others and build bridges between our various traditions and backgrounds, my experience as a part of the BU community has helped me give depth to my religious beliefs and kept my faith practice alive.

Rebekah Phillips

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On your way into church this morning, you may have noticed Marsh Chapel’s ornate doors, appreciated its statue of John Wesley, or noted the beautiful stones that create this strong Chapel. On your way into church this morning, you may not have noticed Marsh Chapel’s “Fallout Shelter” signs. Now, I’ve never been too worried about needing a nuclear fallout shelter on campus, but with a best friend obsessed with zombie apocalypses, it’s nice to know I have one just in case.

As one might expect, as a bright-eyed youngin’ from South Carolina in my first semester, I needed some shelter- and not only from the bad weather Boston is wont to provide. I made my first group of friends at Marsh Chapel. I joined Servant Team. And then one fateful day, I managed to land a job at Marsh Chapel. What sealed the deal was the bummy tee-shirt I was wearing, depicting a rock opera by “The Who.” Ray Bouchard instantly became my boss and mentor for classic rock theology.

Again, as one might expect, a youngin’ from South Carolina in my first semester, I did a lot of painful growing and changing. At times, I felt decimated by a natural disaster: College. The hail of homework, the debris of dating, and the floods of friendship. And where did I find myself? Here, in your friendly local fallout shelter.

I remember one particular day, I stormed into Brother Larry’s office, distraught and demanding answers. “Brother Larry, Brother Larry,” I exclaimed throwing myself in his office chair, “I don’t think I believe in hell!” I expected some comforting words, a shelter from that storm, and a “You’ll come around, pray about it.” But no, that’s not how shelter works at Marsh Chapel. No, Brother Larry just looked up and said, “So?” See, here, shelter is not a place to hide from the scary parts of life and growth, shelter is the place that gives you safe space to prepare for those scary parts. Shelter is that calm and gentle question that invites you to sit with your questions. “So?”

Over the past four years, I have come to Marsh Chapel for work, worship, guidance, food, theological exploration, and nap time. This has been my home at Boston University; my shelter. This safe space has made my spirit strong. A young man, whose initials are Dean Robert Alan Hill, once said that “We must remain faithful to the growth.” The patience and gentle questions at Marsh have remained faithful to my growth. I have grown within these walls in ways that will support me outside of these walls. This I believe: Religion and faith at their best, offer not only a shelter from the world, but a place to prepare to better be a part of the world. This I believe: Wherever I am called to serve God’s world, I can go with strength, knowing that I will always carry a safe space with me.

Kate Rogers

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The first time I entered the British Library during my semester abroad in London, I knew I had found my academic temple. Replete with literary treasures—two of the four surviving Magna Cartas, the original Gutenberg Bible, and scribbled first drafts of The Beetles most famous songs among them—and abounding with resolute scholars, vested with pencils and laptops, I felt connected to the whole history of humanity in the pursuit for something higher. The British Library gets 8000 new publications a day, so it naturally became the base from which I wrote my term paper, and in that setting I felt as though there was nothing I couldn’t learn. In that space, with hundreds of years of scholarship behind me, and hours of reading before me, I felt close to God.

I believe that all parts of life can be, well, life giving, and I came to BU (a year later than most of my graduating class because I transferred as a sophomore) knowing I wanted such an experience from my new university. I believe things that are life giving push you to be your best self, achieve what you can, and accept who you are. I wanted invigorating classes with professors as invested as myself. I wanted to be surrounded with refreshingly broadminded people. And, I wanted a connection to a church family, where I might talk about the joys, doubts, and beauty of my faith with people who wanted to do the same. Since the moment I arrived at BU I have been hearing the echo of Howard Thurman, asking me to look for the sound of the genuine and urging I find the things that make me come alive. I didn’t only experience these awe-inspiring suggestions in gothic chapels or studious classrooms, but also in casual settings like Outlook, Marsh’s LGBTQ ministry or around the table of my cooperative house’s nightly dinners.

Occasionally, when I tell people I study Christian Theology and plan to go to seminary, they ask if knowledge of Christian history and teaching is incompatible with my faith in God. To them I say, not at all. Reading and analyzing the legacy of believers behind me has deepened my sense of the divine in everything, and further I tell them for me, knowledge and faith must be fused together. People tell me the Bible condemns homosexuality, and I say proudly my denomination and community affirm the sanctity of human love, connection, and commitment found in all human relationships. And when people tell me they’ve left the church because of its hypocrisy, I can confidently offer my experience at Marsh Chapel as a counter example. In the classroom as in the church, I believe my faith in God’s presence has infused everything I’ve done at BU. This I believe: settings where you feel pushed to find the genuine in yourself and search for the things that make you come alive, academically, personally, and spiritually, must not be restricted to lofty libraries, but invigorate and animate the core of human life everywhere.