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Religion at the Hall: Response from Admin

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Dear Logos,

I am so pleased that you have asked this question.  We will be celebrating Christmas before we leave for Winter Break. We are an amazing community filled with unique and diverse perspectives, experiences, practices, and viewpoints.  One of my major goals this year is to cultivate an environment and tone where all religious and cultural practices are welcome and celebrated.  Eventually, I would love for this initiative and planning to come from within the student body to really capture your interests and what you find to be the most relevant as a group.

Please know that the celebration and observances that have taken place this year have been deliberate.  Celebrating major holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, and Christmas, is an intentional exercise in learning about each other and the world beyond our campus so that when we move on from Harpeth Hall, we are prepared to successfully work with and appreciate everyone – not just individuals that are ‘like us.’

I believe that your letter makes some incredibly valid points and your perspective and feelings are so important for me to hear and understand.  I would like to address this point specifically: ‘I have grown to be afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings if I mention a holiday or an aspect of Christianity.’  By celebrating everything and everyone, we are able to do just that.  Celebrate your faith and encourage everyone to do the same with theirs.  We should not be fearful of owning our practices wherever we are.  There are so many sad and divisive things in our world, and every opportunity we have to come together and be joyful is one that we should embrace and cherish.

It is important to observe that we can’t know everything and that religious and cultural practices are deeply personal.  When we inevitably misstep and say something that is incorrect, serve the wrong type of meal, mispronounce a word, wear the wrong clothing, or any other slipup, we have to acknowledge that we are all always learning.  Own when you do not know something, ask questions respectfully, and apologize when something doesn’t go the way you intend.  In this vein, we must also be forgiving and supportive of others when they stumble.

I have had the pleasure of dancing at a Diwali dinner after eating more than my fair share of samosas. I have spent a morning chanting at a Hare Krishna Temple with a rosemary wreath around my neck, and an afternoon listening to an Imam speak about his experience as a Muslim man in America while sitting on a pushte on the mosque floor with intricate blue tile weaving up the wall.  I have had breakfast with an agnostic, lunch with a Buddhist monk, and dinner with an atheist.  I have braided Challah, planted a tree on Tu B’Shvat, and prepared an entire kosher style meal.  I have pinned my grandmother’s family tartan around her shoulders, put on my own, driven to our Presbyterian church for ‘The Kirkin of the Tartans’ service, and cried as the bagpipes played Scotland the Brave.  I have passed the flame from candle to candle as we sing ‘Silent Night’ on Christmas Eve while the church lights lower.

I wish for all of you powerful moments of learning where you are stretched to listen, understand, and empathize with a spectrum of people and practices.  I have learned so much from these experiences and feel a closeness for these places and individuals I have met along the way.  It is my hope that the things we are able to do on campus give each of us, even if just a glimmer, an insight and understanding to the world beyond our everyday interaction.

 

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Religion at the Hall: Response from Admin