Archive for the ‘This I Believe’ Category

May 15

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear all 4 reflections with interlude music

Acts 2:42-47
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

“This I Believe” Narratives

Tyler Sit

God be in my end, and in my departing.
I have spent four years at Marsh Chapel, with some hiatus in the middle for living abroad. The worship service we are sharing today has followed me through my college career, regardless the continent I was on, and for the sake of our time (which is now) and the sake of our place (which is here), I would like to frame my beliefs in the elegant rhythms of the Marsh Chapel worship service. And what better place do we have to begin but the end—from this choral response, let us step back to the prompt. God be in my head.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you…

I believe we can be a benediction for each other, and in so doing witness a gospel in the present tense. I believe the Spirit lives in the hearts of all, and we cannot begin to understand the nature of God without the participation of all.

I mentioned I lived abroad but surely the most important travel I have ever done was to visit the temples of every-body, to sit in the pews of another person’s understanding of God and glissando in reverence of another person’s chorus. The past four years gave me conversations with people who envision God from a different angle—my Orthodox Jewish brothers looking back throughout history, my Buddhist sisters looking around and within, my Catholic friends looking—well I’m not really sure, but they are indeed beside me and I cherish them like I do my Muslim classmates and Hindu roommates and the debates I have with the swell of atheism that characterizes this generation.

What a benediction they are to me, how earnestly I try to represent Christ to them.

I believe that our offertory can be a social one, that when we are with each other we can bless others just as we have been covered with blessings. For it is when we are with each other that we find our place within the Creation that has already been worshiping:

All Creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia! Alleluia!

It is when we walk in offering and sacrifice to God that we can hear each other, that the prayers of the people can find volume. How greatly the capacity of our hearts enlarge when, kneeling next to each other, we can support the whole world and work to end suffering that we can only touch by prayer. And for the suffering that we will encounter once we step outside of this sanctuary, we orient ourselves right, crying:

Lead me Lord (for I have lost my inspiration), lead me in thy righteousness (for we have rejected our liberation), make thy way plain before my face (Oh You, our object of adoration).

And after such contemplation I find I can’t help but preach about it. To share a gospel with my tongue but also to deliver a sermon with my living—that each song I sing can be like David that each lesson I bring can be like Paul. Not that either of those guys were particularly holy, which works out because I’m not either. The good news, though, is that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, this proves God’s love for us—now all we need to do is prove that we can love each other.

I believe that each morning gives us opportunity to begin worship anew. Just like this morning, how we gather—now, here—where the dawn of the east meets the twilight of the west, and the cool of the north touches the calm of the south. We follow the same worship rhythm, but the song changes with every breath.


Monica Castillo

I never suffered growing pains when I was younger. If you can’t see me behind the podium today, you now know why. Childhood didn’t quite prepare me for the lessons I learned in college. I wasn’t challenged out of my comfort zone often. I went to middle school with practically the same people and teachers as I did when I left for college. Change was not something I was used to, but it was something I desired.

On my own for the first time, I felt truly lonely. Seeking to keep some regularity in my life, I came to Marsh Chapel for services on a very windy, but sunny day. I dragged my parents along to a service they said reminded them of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Yes, the music was new for me too, but the message was similar. After the service, they offered a trip to the JFK Library, and I decided to tag along.

And along I stayed. It was in Marsh I found a home away from home. I ran here when news of the stock market crash hit and since then, nearly every crisis I’ve gone through has ended with me coming here for help. Within the first month of classes, I lost one of my youth pastors from home and ended up in the sanctuary crying. I wasn’t alone for long, before someone came and talked with me. I found other people just as interested as I was to find friends and stability. I started to joke that Marsh had adopted us bratty freshmen. One friend and I even made a Marsh family tree, with Dean Hill and his wife, Jan, as our grandparents, Elizabeth as our aunt, Ray as our uncle, and Brother Larry as our brother. To further the joke, I started to write the Thurman Room couch #1 as my address in the red books in the pew.

It saddens me to walk away from all this after only three years. After all this trailblazing, I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to stay here, in Boston, at Boston University. In my case, I won’t even graduate with the girls I was so closely friends with. They have still a year to go, and I am leaving early. My family is coming up from the South to see me graduate, but I want my Northern family, my Marsh family, to be there too! Perhaps this is a kind of sadness that acts like a growing pain, letting me know it’s time to move on. I fear that to graduate is to lose them. But wherever this graduation process drops me off, I hope to still have my faith in this family. Because that’s what Marsh has taught me. Not faith in the good book-I’ve had that for awhile. No, Marsh Chapel have given me back my faith in the family, faith in friendships, and restored my faith in nearly everyone around me. Perhaps I will be able to walk away from here as I did from my home in Florida, assured that even if I move or they move that we will always have the times we once shared in a place we called home. Perhaps these growing pains would at least lend me an inch or two in time for graduation.

Rachel Hassinger

Good morning!

My name is Rachel Hassinger.

Thank you for including me in your service today.

I started this journey to graduation many years ago at a diffe
rent school. Now I am finishing here at Boston University.

I am a woman of faith. I used to believe in a God that heals. I still do, but it hasn’t been easy.

I grew up a believer. I led the youth group, and studied the bible with my peers and my mentors. I joined ecumenical and other student religious groups at my previous college.
Unfortunately, my experiences with extreme antigay hatred and fear have catapulted me out of the church.

While this may not change soon, I trust, that although my student life at BU did not lead me through Marsh Chapel or other religious groups, my finals days as an undergraduate student are just the beginning of my future — grounded in a faith that knows no boundaries, a faith that transcends creed, class or nationality.

This I believe:

I believe in a goddess of suffering, a god of true life.

I believe in a spirit of justice, a father/son, mother/daughter, tree of life.

I believe in a faith that shatters and is yet still restored.

I believe in a Jesus that lived on this Earth, and suffered beyond human understanding.

I believe when an officer shot and killed Danroy Henry, a black, 20-year old Pace University student, sitting in a car outside a New York bar last year, our Yahweh mourns. And when that same cop is crowned Officer of the Year, we can hear Her wail in sadness and rage.

I believe that God created each of us in Her image – that race and gender are built by humans to explain oppression based on color, country, gender expression, sexuality or creed.

I believe that a person who steals bread is first and foremost hungry — that we as a society are accountable for acquiescing to a system that leaves that one – and a million more – starving and underfed.

I believe that God knows no boundaries; God knows no walls.

I believe if we listen to the oppressed: such as the Palestinians, whose homes are being bulldozed in Gaza, the Jews who came before whose lives were shattered, the Muslims targeted by xenophobia and bigotry, or the persecution of the brown skinned in the name of fake borders and walls — we can hear our Lord calling us to turn over the tables in our temples of greed.

I believe in a Love that seeks justice, in a love that kindles passion and purpose in those that know Her.

I believe that God does not only bless America or Boston University, the wealthy, the light skinned, the able-bodied, or the straight — god blesses all.

I believe that no matter what humans conjure up as creed, that the single most important truth resides in these words from Jesus: love your neighbor as you love yourself.

RuPaul – host of Logo’s hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race — says it another way: “If you can’t love yourself, how (in the hell) you gonna love someone else?”

“Can I get an Amen?”

Radha Patel

Two weeks left of our undergraduate education, and the first sunny day of the season upon us, a new friend and I sat on BU beach. Our professor had just mentioned the saying, “all paths lead up the same mountain” while my friend had recently heard a similar proverb, “the view is the same at the top of the mountain”. Thus began our debate on whether the two maxims had the same significance.

This moment was a triumph for me in more than one way. Not only had I picked up on a nuance in the sayings, but because I myself confessed what I believed to be true. All paths up a mountain indicates, everyone looks for a universal divineness believed to be at the top, while climbing for a view highlights a moment for contemplation at the top.

An underclassman once asked me if I ever found myself overwhelmed, depressed or confused by deciding to double major in religion and biology. It was the first time I was asked to contemplate my personal beliefs and how they were affected by studying religion and science, and I was scared. Until then, I carefully isolated what I studied from my faith. Being a student, there is an understanding that we are to be the pragmatics in society; better to be one while at the forefront of a progressive one. I wasn’t ready for my faith to confront what I was learning. I was frightened by the possibility of coming to the logical decision to reject God. And, I was ashamed to admit, if He did exist, I didn’t want to be punished by God for rejecting him.

Instead, it was easier to shunt those niggling reservations. I even thought to myself that I would reflect when I had the time- I was too busy making friends, studying and traveling to be able to peacefully think. Obviously, this wasn’t successful. Whenever there was a quiet moment, the conflicts between logic and faith screamed to be heard in my head, and so, slowly, in the sanctity and secrecy of my own mind, I began to pose questions in an assumed format: Humans are only given so much responsibility because God believes us to be capable- right? God ensures that in the end, it is a just world- right? I then became more ambitious and I asked: Is there a paramount realization experience to be had if we meditate hard enough? Should authentic reactions of hate, jealousy, and anger, though facets of humanity, be denied because they are ugly, or, are all faiths taking different paths up the same mountain?

Learning and enquiring has threatened my faith, however it is thrilling and I have developed a more nuanced view of it. Questioning is strenuous and a blessing. You are your own most judgmental critic, but in this way, once you form your fluid convictions you understand the path you took to get there.

This I believe: Having absolute static beliefs is easy. Allow yourself to doubt and form dynamic beliefs.

While it may make you feel vulnerable, it is right before then, that you see the view.

May 10

This I Believe – Tim Kelly

By Marsh Chapel

Click here for audio of just the sermon

Good morning, my name is Tim Kelly, and I am a senior graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in psychology. As I stand before you today, I realize how many things one can fit in to four years. I have taken 33 college courses, spent over 1,200 hours in lectures, run 3 half marathons, sung more than 10 Bach Cantatas, and have given countless campus tours all since September 2005. But as I reflected on what I was to speak about today, none of these things came to mind as I considered what I now believe as a graduating senior. Actually, I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to three things.

First: God is here. What might seem like the most obvious or simple of statements suddenly becomes questioned, doubted, and sometimes forgotten in daily life. I certainly have been through my share of ups and downs, as I am sure many of you have. What it amazing, however, is that I have experienced God in all sorts of ways. Maybe you experience God through the reading of Scripture. Maybe you see God as you watch a beautiful summer sunset. Maybe you hear God in the music of a classical motet. Perhaps you experience God through people, through friends and family, or even through a loving, kind-hearted brunette in the soprano section of your choir. Maybe you give thanks today, like I do, for your mother or for someone who has played a mother-like role in your life. If you’re like me, you probably experience God through many of these lenses, but certainly I believe that God is here.

Second: we cannot do this alone. I have truly come to value the experience of community within church and Christian life. If community was not important, we’d all be listening to church services on the radio and there would be no need for pews or coffee hour or retreats or passing the peace or fellowship. While I have certainly met great people here at Marsh, I have also searched out community by finding my own separate time to worship away from singing here in the choir, and doing that has given me a wonderful, additional opportunity to grow both personally and spiritually. I truly believe that we cannot go through this adventure, this journey called Christian life by ourselves.

Thirdly: God does not always work in the ways we expect Him to. If you have ever had highs and lows, with some expectations met and some surprises encountered in your life, you, like I, have likely experienced this. I’ve learned that we can take away just as much from a seemingly negative situation as we can from a seemingly positive situation. As a freshman I came upon a quote which at the time I found interesting, and which now I find so true to my own experience:

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity and God gave me brawn and brain to work.
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for patience and God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities.
I asked for everything so I could enjoy life.
Instead, He gave me life so I could enjoy everything.
I received nothing I wanted but I was given everything I needed.
My prayer has been answered.

I believe I am a pilgrim on a continuous journey through my faith that doesn’t stop next week at Commencement. I believe God is here to help me through my journey, not always in the ways expected, but through faith and community, I hope and pray that I may live out God’s will in my life.

Thanks be to God.

May 10

This I Believe- Jennifer Williams

By Marsh Chapel

Click here for audio of sermon only

Good morning! My name is Jennifer Williams and I am a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Sciences Class of 2009. I am deeply humbled today to stand where Howard Thurman, one of Martin Luther King’s mentors during his doctoral studies here at BU, sought to forge the way for common ground throughout this university and across this nation. Their legacy lives on. First and foremost, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to some special people here at Marsh Chapel who have enhanced my years at BU. To Dean Hill and Jan Hill, thank you for your guidance and mentorship over the years. I often smile to myself thinking of the times when Dean Hill and I would run into each other on Bay State Road on our way to class or chapel. We’d exchange a nod, a smile, or a quick conversation. As you know, I have served on the Marsh Chapel Usher Team since the spring semester of my freshman year, and it has been a truly rewarding experience. I’ve enjoyed greeting all of you as you enter the chapel doors on Sunday mornings. I’ll especially miss the lively conversations with my fellow ushers: George Coulter, Jay Reeg, Mark Gray, and our newest
member Andrew Lynch. Whether it was cheering on the Terriers in hockey with George, or discussing current events with Mark or Jay, I’ve learned something from all of you. Thank you for enriching my four years at BU with friendship, spirituality, and the sharing of your life experiences. I must also thank my family and friends for
their continued guidance and wisdom.

My parents and I flew up to Boston from Atlanta the spring of my senior year in high school to make that important college decision. That flight from Atlanta to Boston happened to be the first of many for me! It happened to be a rainy day, but as we walked along Bay State Road, towards the BU Beach, near Marsh Chapel and along the Charles River, the ambiance of this city and school struck me. No where else
could I have been immersed in a school environment with such a deep connection to the city. I chose a major concentration in anthropology and a minor in sociology. My coursework presented me with many opportunities to explore beyond the campus along the Freedom Trail, The Museum of Fine Arts, Chinatown, and the Government Center area. Each year, I made time to explore beyond campus, taking memorable
trips to Salem, Plymouth, Providence, New York, and this year Washington DC for President Obama’s inauguration. Traveling is a passion of mine, so whether it was touring Nathanial Hawthorne’s home or the Mayflower, visiting Plymouth Rock and Times Square, the exposure was worth it. Through notable lectures on campus such as Dr. Paul Farmer, Christine King Farris, and at the time Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, I’ve learned and I believe that we as a human race are all interconnected and share common hopes and dreams.

During the summer of my junior year, I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in an Anthropological Field School Program in Peru. It was a life changing experience for me because I witnessed first-hand how so many people in the developing world live each day. I became even more grateful for the privileges that we in the United States take for granted like potable drinking water, basic health care, and standard
of living. The experience made me certain that I needed to make an impact on the lives of others even if in the smallest scale. The following summer, I was selected as a Fellow in the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. The program exposed me to careers in
government service as well as graduate level coursework. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” I believe public service will be my life’s work, as it has been my calling thus far. I feel blessed to be able to pursue a Masters in Public Policy next fall at The Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at The University of Michigan. Let us continue in Howard Thurman’s footsteps to forge the common ground that unites us all. Let us not forget to hear
the cries of the needy, those who mourn, and the oppressed. May we continue to serve in our communities because there is much to be done.

I will conclude by reading Proverbs Chapter 3 verses 5 through 6, which has
sustained and inspired me through my undergraduate studies. I hope
that you are also inspired:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own
understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct
your paths.”

May 10

This I Believe – Nellie Staley

By Marsh Chapel

Click here for audio of the sermon only.

Good morning. My name is Nellie Staley, and I’m a graduating law student.

When I moved to Boston to start law school nearly three years ago, I didn’t know anyone in Boston. No family, no friends, no acquaintances, not even some random person that I went to school with 10 years ago. I mean, NO ONE.

But let me backtrack a little. Growing up, I attended church every Sunday... until I was confirmed in 8th grade, and then (for various reasons), I stopped going to church. That’s not to say I stopped being faithful. I continued to attend “church camp” every summer, and I considered my faith to be a central part of my life. But I was not part of a religious community.

Sometime during my senior year of college, one of my – we’ll say “spiritual mentors” – told me that I needed to find a church, that being part of a community was part of being Christian. So I did. I found a church that I attended regularly, and I enjoyed the service, and I thought that I was doing what I had been told. But I wasn’t, because I still wasn’t part of the community.

Which brings me to Boston: I got here, and decided that I needed a church home, if for no other reason than comfort. I did not know a soul, and I needed to find some place in this city that felt like... relief. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, and I was desperate to find the American Embassy.

Maybe my second week of law school, I came to Marsh Chapel. And no offense to Dean Hill, but what made me come back the next Sunday was the choir. Truly majestic. And after that next Sunday, little by little, I began to be absorbed into the Marsh community... and that has made all the difference.

I now have multiple sets of friends, and adoptive parents and grandparents, who ask me how my classes are going, let me know when they won’t be around next Sunday, and talk to me about everything from Barack Obama to Ayn Rand to the Book of John.

How moving it is to watch your brothers and sisters in Christ receive communion. How moving it is to hear them singing in the pew behind you – and how much more so when you recognize the voice. I don’t think I quite understood what Jesus really meant when he commanded us to “love one another as I have loved you” until I came to Boston.

The latest lesson in my spiritual journey – this I believe: I can sense God’s love in the flowers of the Public Garden, the water of the Boston Harbor, the laughter on the BU Beach. But all this cannot compare to the depth of God’s love that I can feel in the presence of my church community – my Marsh Chapel family.

And so I am pleased to say today, to Cecelia, Darlene, Glenice, Sandra, Barbara, Faith, Carolyn, Elizabeth, Nancy, Alice, Mel, Joanne, Bev, Jan, Victoria, Susan, and my mom who is listening in Pittsburgh: Happy Mother’s Day.

May 10

This I Believe – Jaime Pangman

By Marsh Chapel

I, like many of my fellow students, entered Boston University with many fears: fear of the future and my unknown place in it, of failure, of newly achieved independence. I expected college to placate these fears by preparing me for the world after I left the safety of campus and began my real life. As I arrived for my first day of classes, the future loomed large thanks to my indecision concerning my major. Of course, this hid the long term problem of a lack of direction in finding out what I wanted to do for a career. To my freshman self, the university symbolized the step between childhood and adulthood, and the lessons I was going to learn here would magically discern and guide my entire life. In essence, I hoped that the four years of education would uncover hidden truths that would do the work for me. However, at the fundamental base of my preoccupation with the future lay a deeper problem. I wanted to find a lasting happiness. It was this simple desire that lay behind all of my thoughts and fears. When looking to the future, I sincerely felt that it would not matter what I was doing, as long as I was happy doing it. Therefore, it was much to my chagrin that I realized soon after starting college that this dilemma, the root of all my fears, was not going to solve itself. Unsure of how to continue, I almost gave up when the answer came from what probably should have been the first place to look for it: my faith.

It was Paul who wrote, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider a loss for the sake of Christ.” This statement sums up the role that faith has played in my college life perfectly. The reconnection with faith that occurred during my time here changed my life completely and permanently. All of those answers on which I had tried to base my life, and thereby placate my fears (for example, finding a good job, searching for Truths in education, obtaining a secure future), mean very little when compared to my faith. Or more correctly, when observed through this faith, these answers seemed incomplete. Moreover, the fears which once loomed so large seem small and inconsequential. It is for this reason that during my time at college, my faith has moved from being a secondary force driving my actions to playing a very central role in my life. So, far from the fear I felt four years ago, I now face the future with excitement and tranquility.