Open House for All Peoples Encourages Spiritual Exploration

Graphics by Chandler Littleford/The Choate News

Last week, Choate’s Spiritual Life Team held the Open House for All Peoples Week. Starting on Sunday, January 21 and lasting until Sunday, January 28, the open house was organized for all students, with various events held throughout the week.

The Reverend Ally Brundige, Director of Spiritual Life, said, “The idea of the Spiritual Life’s Open House for All People’s Week is to showcase what we normally do in a week and invite people to come in to see and check it out and take part.” Rev. Brundige added that it is pretty close to a normal week in terms of having groups meet almost every night, but because most people in the community aren’t aware of these happenings, “Pazrt of the idea is to spread that awareness.”

The week kicked off on Sunday night with a Make and Break Bread event for Roman Catholic students in the Spears Common Room. Students baked loaves of bread, broke it, and talked. Rev. Brundige explained, “You’re meant to go out and be bread in the world and be that which brings life and nourishment to others.” This was exactly what the group did; afterward, they donated the extra loaves of bread to Master’s Manna, a local organization that helps those who are homeless or near homeless.

On Monday, there was the Prophetic Witness with Christian Fellowship in the Spears Common Room from 8:30-9:20 p.m. Students learned about certain prophets, while also writing letters to President Trump’s P’00 Faith Advisory Council. Rev. Brundige emphasized the sense of justice, and the group wrote these letters about issues of justice that mattered to them.

On Tuesday, two events took place. The first was the Reception and Q&A from 12:15 – 1:15 p.m. with Ms. Ellen Kaidanow, the daughter-in-law of two Holocaust survivors. Ms. Kaidanow addressed the Choate community during school meeting on Tuesday, January 23, though there was additional time during this Q&A to talk to her one-on-one in the Humanities Rotunda. Later in the day, the Spiritual Life Team handed out flowers in the Dining Hall from 6:30-7:20 p.m.. Julia Mackenzie ’19 appreciated her small gift, stating, “It made me feel more connected to the Spiritual Life office.” She continued, “I think them coming forward and doing something nice like that for the community makes people want to talk to them more and interact with them more.”

The next event held was Walking Meditation from 8:45-9:15 p.m. in the Seymour St. John Chapel. Led by Mr. Jim Davidson, HPRSS teacher and adviser to Buddhist Students, participants walked around the chapel in a figure eight, practicing meditation. Zach Thomson ’18 attended the walking meditation, which was new for him. “I’m very used to sitting meditation, which you really dive into your mind and whatnot, but it was almost the same experience with the walking,” he said, adding, “The sound of your own steps eventually resonates in your head and you eventually forget about it and you’re just lost in your thoughts.”

On Thursday night, there were two events held back-to-back. The first was from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Spears Common Room on Islamophobia, hosted by the Muslim Students Association and CDSA. Students enjoyed a Halal meal while talking about Islamophobia and its relationship with xenophobia in general.

Rev. Brundige commented on the matter, “We have to start to combat ignorance, combat some of the misconceptions, otherwise we are complicit by our silence.” Right after, from 7-8 p.m., there was an event held by Spectrum and Spiritual Life advisers in the Library Room 205 about the LGBTQIA community and its relationship with spirituality. Grant Corso ’18 attended the meeting and stated that the group “went around and talked about our own sexual identities and our religious identities and how, if so, they interacted with each other.” Corso was intrigued by the variety of responses from the group, commenting, “It was really interesting and illuminating to see how different people’s experiences were, because there’s obviously kind of a negative connotation between the LGBT community and religious communities, but it was interesting to see how people were actually affected.”

The next day was the chance for students to come make matzo ball soup in the St. John Hall Kitchen at 6 p.m. From 6:30-7 p.m., students could do Torah Yoga led by Rabbi Barbara Paris, Jewish Chaplain, after which they returned to the kitchen to enjoy the matzo ball soup. Before eating the soup, students were challenged to perform: “In Judaism, there exists what’s called a Mitzvah, which is a command and also a deed, and act of goodness in the world,” Rev. Brundige explained.

The final event of the Spiritual Life Open House for All Peoples Week was a more exercise-based activity than all the rest. This past Sunday, January 28, the chaplains from Spiritual Life played 3-on-3 basketball with students. This was one of the major themes throughout the week, and, as Rev. Brundige put it, “We just want to be here for you all and create some fun and meaningful events that show the school what we are and allow you to explore spirituality for yourself or learn about the traditions of others.”

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