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Walking the Labyrinth during the HDS Fall Retreat. Photo by Chris Alburger

I see Harvard Divinity School as a spiritual community, within which there are many distinct spiritual communities. HDS is full of kind, caring, altruistic people, because that’s who the school attracts. Classmates, faculty, and staff have all ministered to me and supported me through difficult times. I often have conversations with people that inspire or challenge me to be my best self (like a good sermon). The Divinity School, like we say at my church, is “a place where we practice being human.”

Community Tea on Tuesday afternoons is like “Coffee Hour” at church to me. It’s when we gather for food and fellowship. It’s where I catch up with friends, get to know people better, and find out what’s happening on campus. Early on in my first semester, I learned there will always be homework, but Community Tea is only once a week, so I decided to make time for it because as Pierre Hadot, whom we read in Introduction to Ministry Studies, has said: “Friendship is the spiritual exercise par excellence.” It’s good to take a break from the busyness of life and make time for each other. Socializing is a vital part of community life and self-care at HDS.

On Wednesdays, we come together from across religious traditions for Noon Service, hosted by a different group each week. For example, the Catholics might lead it one week, then the Jewish students, the Evangelicals, the Buddhist Community, the Muslim Student Council, then the Humanists. I’ve learned so much about the beliefs and practices of my peers through Noon Service that, even though I may not fully understand or agree with them, I have a new level of respect for them. Sometimes it’s challenging for me to encounter beliefs that are radically different from my own, but the services are always inspiring and fill me with faith in our common striving and hope for humanity.

In addition to Community Tea, Noon Service, and other aspects of life here that make the Divinity School feel like a spiritual community, like the HDS Fall Retreat and the annual Seasons of Light concert in December, there are a number of distinct spiritual communities at HDS. For example, the Buddhist Community holds meditation on Tuesday evenings, Methodists have a Covenant Group Thursday mornings, Jewish students discuss the Talmud on Thursday afternoons, and there are over a dozen other student groups organized around a religious tradition or set of spiritual practices.

On Friday afternoons, I worship with the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Students (HUUMS). Services are student-led and open to faculty and staff, which gives me a sense of fellowship with them as well. We sing the hymns I sang at my church back home, hear a sermon from one of our peers, and light candles for joys and concerns. My first year at HDS was full of changes, so it meant a lot to be able to share these joys and concerns with my faith community here. A friend from HUUMS became an important source of support for me, and it was nice knowing the rest of the community was holding me in their thoughts and wishing me well.

In addition to groups grounded in a specific religious tradition, there are groups that gather around other commonalities to go deeper spiritually, like Queer Rites and the Garden Group. WomenCircle has been an especially important spiritual community for me. We gather in the evening once a month for profoundly moving services in the spirit of the feminine divine, and, in November, we go to Maine for our annual retreat. This is where I’ve shared deeply and always felt held in all that I am. I’ve become close with many women at HDS through WomenCircle and they’ve played a critical role in supporting me in my growth. There are also interreligious Hear and Now groups for students that meet every week during the academic year for deep sharing and fellowship. Worshiping and sharing deeply with people and then running into them on the way to class or at the Rock (as we affectionately call our cafe) gives me a special sense of connection with them and makes this place feel like home.

I’ve had a profound experience of spiritual community at HDS. It’s enriched my life and enhanced my studies. So I’d encourage you to learn more about Religious and Spiritual Life at HDS, and take your spiritual well-being into account as you’re thinking about where to pursue religious or theological studies.

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