The HDS Choir

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I have always found strong community in singing groups. In high school, I sang with the same women’s choir for all four years, and some of those ladies are still my best friends. In both high school and college, I sang in church choirs, and even though I wasn’t sure I believed every word of every song we sang, I loved it. I love the feeling of singing in harmony with other voices, loved holding down the alto (and sometimes tenor!) part and hearing how it blended with other parts to create an amazing piece of music. I love how easily I feel comfortable around other singers, how quickly I can bond over yet another boring alto part or the excitement of how rumblingly low the bass part gets.

When coming to HDS, I had high hopes of finding a singing group I would love. Maybe I would join a community church choir! Maybe a Harvard choral society! Maybe both! As the realities of the time commitments of grad school set in, however, I have been very grateful for the HDS Noon Service Choir and the opportunity it has provided me to join a wonderful community of singers.

Every Wednesday during the school year, a group of staff and students start trickling into Andover Chapel around 11:50am. Under the amazing direction of Harry Huff—who has often arranged that week’s piece—we gather around the piano to rehearse the choir’s offering for that day’s service, which has been decided by the host group with Harry’s input. This year, we have sung a wide range of songs, from a two-part round of “Hineh mah tov” for the Jewish Students Association’s service to “Plant a Radish” from The Fantasticks for our final noon service, hosted by the Garden Group. Harry always sends an email earlier in the week to let us know what song we will be singing, and there is often a YouTube link or attached copy of the sheet music for those who want to take a look or a listen before rehearsal—though it is never expected. Some weeks we don’t sing, per request of the host group, and I find myself missing standing on those steps next to Leslie from the Office of Ministry Studies while we sing our hearts out to the alto line.

The choir is low-commitment, only rehearsing immediately before the service. People come when they can and don’t when they can’t. Most weeks, we start rehearsing at 11:50 worried that we won’t have enough people to carry the round or to fill out the parts, but by the time we do our final rehearsal on the steps around 12:05, the choir has inevitably filled out. For a choir with low commitment requirements and no auditions, we make beautiful music for the noon service community every week, if I do say so myself!

Looking out at the gathered community as we share our musical offering, I am always so thankful for Harry’s direction, the enthusiasm of the other members of the choir, and the opportunity to join them to make beautiful music together in celebration of our community. Despite the full days that come along with being an HDS student, there is still plenty of time to do the things that are important to you, even if you can only offer a small amount of time to them. I was late to choir every week in the fall because I had a class that went until noon, but I could still show up, grab some sheet music, and sing along. Singing is important to me, so I’ve found time for it with like-minded souls. The number of people who show up to sing in the choir each week is impressive when you remember that we are all busy grad students, but, at HDS, we are encouraged to make time for the things that are important to us.

 

The Billings Preaching Competition

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The annual Billings Preaching Competition is a long-standing tradition at Harvard Divinity School. Every spring, second and third year Master of Divinity students have the opportunity to preach from a text, and on a topic, of their choice from the historic pulpit in Emerson Chapel. From those who enter, one is chosen to receive the Massachusetts Bible Society award for the best reading of a scripture, and four finalists are chosen to preach to the larger HDS community in Andover Chapel. Continue reading

Doctoral life at Harvard

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What image comes to mind when you think of doctoral life at Harvard?

For many people, this question likely conjures images of cutthroat competition, hostile debates, and interpersonal disputes. Such is the image I often carried with me as an undergraduate and even as an MTS student at Harvard Divinity School. Much to my relief, when I entered the ThD program last year, I found the opposite to be true. Contrary to the apocalyptic scenes that I had envisioned, life as a doctoral student at Harvard is one of immense intellectual growth, supported by intelligent, compassionate faculty mentors and a fantastic group of peers and colleagues. Continue reading

Multireligious Service

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Over the entire course of my first year at HDS, I would say that the Multireligious Service of Thanksgiving was the event that captured HDS in a nutshell. Yes, the invocations, readings, and benedictions from varied religious and spiritual traditions contributed to that feel of HDS—a reading from the Lotus Sutra followed immediately by one from the Qur’an, a benediction from the Humanist tradition followed by a prayer by Thomas Merton. HDS is a place where people of multiple traditions not only exist alongside each other, but also interact with one another on a regular basis. But those varied readings alone were not what made the service seem exquisitely HDS. It was also many other, perhaps less obvious things—like the streamers. Continue reading

Class Speaker Reflection

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I have only one memory from my Presbyterian confirmation class. It is an image of my sweet mother – also the pastor of the church – exhorting a room full of sixth graders: “Grace is a gift that you get, but that you do not deserve! YOU. DO. NOT. DESERVE. IT.” This was the takeaway lesson, meant to sink in and frame every moment of our lives.

I have been asked to reflect about what it means to me to be the 2014 HDS Commencement speaker, and I feel like the ten-year-old trying to understand reformed theology. Being the graduation speaker is a gift that I do not deserve. Continue reading

The HDS Charity Ball

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HDS has a lot of cool events that take place every year, and I would like to highlight one of them. The Charity Ball, or HDS Prom, as some of the sassier members of our community call it, is an annual tradition at Harvard Divinity School that happens toward the end of Spring Semester. The event is sponsored by the HDS Student Association (HDSSA), which means that they pay for everything so that all the money from ticket sales goes directly to charity. Continue reading

Baking for Charity

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The prestigious award given to the winner of the annual HDS Bake Off. Photo by Aisha Ansano

The prestigious award given to the winner of the annual HDS Bake Off. Photo by Aisha Ansano

There are a lot of words I would use to describe the people at HDS: passionate, caring, enthusiastic, studious, silly, impressive, well-rounded…the list goes on and on. But after attending the annual HDS Bake Off this year, I have to add another descriptor to the list: cutthroat. Continue reading

Putting Down Roots

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Photo by Katelynn Carver

Photo by Katelynn Carver

When I started at HDS, some of my fellow incoming classmates wondered aloud if there was any point in trying to make friends if we were only go to be here for 2 or 3 years, before moving on to something somewhere else. I’d say: make friends. You’re going to need friends in grad school, and you might even get to keep some of these friends for life. Like most prospective and admitted students, I didn’t know where I would end up after HDS (and I still don’t) but I’ve found it enormously beneficial to put down some roots—and like a plant that naturally puts down roots as it’s growing taller and fuller, you just can’t help it. So if you’re coming here this fall or thinking about coming here in the future, it might help to start thinking about what’s important to you in settling in. Continue reading

HUUMS

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When I applied to Harvard Divinity School, I didn’t know anything about the strong Unitarian Universalist history woven into the foundation of the school. I was raised UU, and considered that to be one of many descriptors I used to identify myself, but finding a place with an active UU community was not on my list when looking at graduate programs. When I attended the HDS admitted students day, the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Students (HUUMS) hosted a get-together after Community Tea. I joined them, figuring that it was a good way to meet people and because I wanted to be involved in student organizations, more than out of a need for a religious community. It was a beautiful spring day and we sat outside on the grass and talked about nothing in particular. I didn’t know it at the time but I was meeting many of the people who would become my closest friends at HDS. Continue reading

The HDS Religious NONEs

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An atheist in Divinity School. A Urantia Book reader who wants to create community for the unaffiliated. Someone who loves attending high church services who identifies one day as spiritual but not religious and the next as agnostic and the next as questioning and the next as a potential Unitarian Universalist and the next as confused. A humanist who is in the process of fellowship for ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister. What do we all have in common? On the face of it, nothing. And we call ourselves the Nones. Continue reading

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