Hope for the JOURNEY…

This is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Do not be afraid.   Fredrick Beuchner

I’m writing from thirty-eight thousand feet in the air.  As I approach Johannesburg, South Africa, after a week in Jakarta, Indonesia, I’m reflecting on my time in Jakarta and dreaming of what the next ten days will hold in South Africa.  Long flights over vast oceans in all encompassing sky awaken the dreamer!

As a KAICIID International Interfaith Fellow, I spent five days in Jakarta learning and living interfaith dialogue.  Religious leaders from across Indonesia’s 17,000 islands shared of the country’s philosophical foundation, Pancasilia – Five Principles that celebrate religious diversity and honor the dignity of all humanity.  We learned of their efforts to recognize Indonesia’s 300+ indigenous religions and we heard about the rise of extremism.  And on Sunday morning, religious extremists bombed three churches and (later) the police station in Surabaya – in East Java. Beuchner is right, this world is full of beauty and terror – everywhere we turn.

This act of violence deeply saddens all of us.  But, we cannot be afraid!  This act, in a country that celebrates religious pluralism, reinforced and invigorated our commitment to building respect and understanding through inter-religious dialogue.  At the center of inter-religious dialogue is a profound respect for human dignity and a deep commitment to peace.   Meet my KIFP colleagues, Bhavya, Mugu, and Ahmad.

johannesburg people

Ahmad is a French Muslim working in finance in London.  He’s quiet, deeply spiritual, thoughtful, and quite funny – once you get to know him.   Bhavya is a journalist in India.  He is Hindu and helped establish the International Association of Religion Journalists.  He is gregarious, hilarious, and the director of exploration and social life in our group!  If you are up for an adventure after 9pm, Bhavya is your guy!  Mugu is Nigerian.  He is a Christian pastor who teaches in seminaries and works with victims and perpetrators of trauma.  He is strong and gentle.  He asks challenging questions that reach deep into the soul.   These guys are very different.    This week, in Jakarta, they were inseparable…an image of beauty for all the world.  Three men – white, brown, black – with deep religious convictions, sharing their lives and having lots of fun!

This is my hope for our group that will join me in Johannesburg tonight.  We will share our stories with one another and we will hear the stories of South Africa.   Stories of injustice.  Stories of discovery.  Stories of displacement.  Stories of transformation. Journeys of Reconciliation is first and foremost about relationships – built through hearing one another’s stories!  In the coming days, we will build relationships with new friends in South Africa and surprising relationships will emerge within our group.

We begin our Journey in Johannesburg, eager to hear the stories of beauty and terror in this place.  We open ourselves to the people of this beautiful country in hopes that their stories will transform our hearts and our minds.

Rev. Lisa Garvin
Associate Dean of the Chapel
Office of Spiritual and Religious Life
Emory University

The JOURNEY has begun…we are off to South Africa!


Hi! My name is Jane Marrazzo and I’m a graduate student in the Goizueta Business School. I am honored to be a part of the 2018 Journeys of Reconciliation: South Africa.  It’s hard to believe that the Journeys trip is actually here. For many members of our group the pre-trip planning started as far back as November when we submitted our applications. Over the course of the following six months, we have routinely met to learn more about South Africa and its complex history. One of our starting points was to read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. The book served as a starting point to understanding South Africa’s painful past; however, once I started doing research, I couldn’t stop. I have watched documentaries, listened to YouTube audio lectures, read online content- all in pursuit to understand how the apartheid laws were ever developed and rationalized. Two thoughts that have plagued me have been 1. How was the apartheid justified by whites for so long and by so many? 2. How/where did the change in governments fail in its altruistic attempt to build a better, safer, more equal South Africa envisioned by ANC leaders during the Struggle? These are not easy questions to answer.

As we search of these and other answers to difficult questions, I’m reminded by an excerpt from Mandela’s book…

“ ‘Ndiwelimilambo enamagama – I have crossed famous rivers.’ It means that one has travelled and, in the process, gained much experience… We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road.”

Jane Marrazzo is a rising second year in the full time two year MBA program at Goizueta Business School. A dual citizen of Venezuela and the United States, Jane is eager to pursue a career in marketing and brand management that inspires diverse people, cultures, and perspectives.


IRC in Washington, DC!

Emory’s Inter-Religious Council (IRC) traveled to Washington D.C. over spring break for several days of multi-faith dialogue, good food, and food justice! Here are some of the highlights:

Saturday night: Emory ChaiTunes

We had the opportunity to support Emory’s own Jewish a cappella group ChaiTunes at the National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Competition! They put on a wonderful performance and it was a great way to kick off our 2018 IRC Spring Break trip in DC! The competition was held in a local synagogue and provided the perfect opportunity to begin our inter-religious conversation which continued throughout the rest of the trip.


Inter-Faith Family Project : Sunday

The opportunity to visit with the Inter-Faith Family Project during their Sunday morning “Gathering” was an experience that sparked conversations for the rest of the trip, as well as continued inter-religious dialogue once we arrived back on Emory’s campus. The IFFP is primarily Jewish-Christian couples that meet to teach their children both traditions. The service was a combination of Christian hymns and prayers, as well as several Hebrew recitations.

We split off for classes in either the adult class in which we learned about the Jewish Afterlife from a Rabbi, or the children’s classes in which the kids learned about Passover Seder. Conversations we had throughout the day ranged from: “How do you practice from an interfaith identity? Can you fully practice a tradition when you are part of an interfaith community? We had many fruitful and reflective conversations on these topics as the trip continued, and even as it came to an end and we returned to the larger IRC community on-campus at Emory.


United Methodist Building:

Upon arriving at the United Methodist Building (the only non-political building on Capitol Hill), we met Susan Henry-Crowe who used to be Dean of Emory OSRL and also graduated from the Candler School of Theology. It was so great to meet alumni from Emory right in the heart of our nation’s capitol!

Food Justice Programming: Day 1

Two volunteers from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers presented a short documentary about farm workers in Florida who work in the tomato fields and their continuing advocacy for better conditions and workers’ rights. I was personally very impressed by one of the speakers who is currently a junior at a local university in DC – she was so engaging and well-informed on the topic for only have volunteered with the organization for a short time! It was a very inspiring presentation and great way to start off our programming, if not humbling to recognize the power of capitalist markets and their power over individuals’ basic rights and well-being.

As the day continued, we had the opportunity to listen to and engage with an inter-religious panel representing Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. We talked about how central food is to each of these religious traditions and how we can be food justice advocates in our own communities. Our thinking about Emory’s microcosm of food insecurity and justice was contrasted with a presentation from Gabriela Rosazza from the International Labor Rights Forum. We talked about human rights on the global level and the exploitation of capitalist markets, as well as the process of production of food products and that despite the many challenges of the system, “It’s not about alternatives, it’s about accountability.”

Gail Taylor is a farmer from inter-city DC and closed out our first day of programming by speaking about her experiences in urban farming and how her garden “Three Part Harmony”. As women of color are very often marginalized in our society, it was so inspiring to hear from her position as a farmer and to see how passionate about her work she is, along with the impact of her work on the greater DC community!

We wrapped up the first full day of programming and had a bit of time to adventure/explore DC, even thought many of us stayed on the Hill and didn’t stray too far before meeting for dinner. A large group of us ended up exploring Georgetown (mostly for the cupcakes!) after dinner, while others stuck closer to Capitol Hill and did their best to stay warm with the snow. The end to a great second full day in DC, and plenty of food for thought …


Food Justice Programming: Day 2

A (very very cold and windy!) field trip to an urban farm in north DC! We met with the manager of the Common Good City Farm and had the chance to tour the area and have all our compost, fruit tree, and soil questions answered. The man’s passion for his work within the community was apparent he patiently answered all of our questions, even going in-depth and sharing his thoughts about plants’ role in solving crime (sorry I’m lacking further citations on this, ha ha!). Despite the sunshine, we froze but were soon warmed up after visiting the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl – a restaurant that’s been around for 60 years!

Returning to the UMC building, we engaged with two more speakers who work as urban farmers before a reflection exercise in which everyone from our group wrote and shared their own slam poetry. It was a great way to reflect on all that we’d learned over two long days and interesting to hear how each person in our group had internalized the messages and shared them with others. This was such a fun way to wrap up, even if some of us were at first a bit less excited about having to share our work out-loud. 😉

We were invited to have dinner at the Kulp family’s house in Maryland, which was a perfect end to the trip. We had a wonderful dinner, were able to get to know David’s family better, and the night ended in a circle of chairs and couches in their living room from which we engaged in a very natural and wonderful inter-religious dialogue. A female rabbi from the local Orthodox community joined us and we discussed various inter-religious topics from the variety of our religious traditions. Not only was the conversation inter-religious, but it was also inter-generational as David’s grandparents were there. It was a late night, but a wonderful end to a busy (and very cold/windy!) trip.

After several days in D.C. with Emory Inter-religious Council, I can say that five days straight of inter-religious dialogue was pretty tiring! Even then, our programming focus on food justice has inspired me to be more engaged in my community back in Atlanta, as well as carrying the ideas and information that I gained from Capitol Hill with me wherever I may be. 🙂 Those who went on the Spring Break IRC are an incredible group of individuals who I am very thankful to have gotten the chance to engage with on a deeper level, as well as the opportunity to explore D.C. together and form friendships. A big thank you to Lisa, Haley, Jake, Isam, and Kevin for being our wonderful “adults” throughout the trip as well!


IRC Spring Break in D.C.: Round 2 in 2019? 😉

Sidenote: There was an event on Emory’s campus related to Food Justice put together by Campus Kitchens, Slow Food Emory, and Volunteer Emory. It was a great panel of Emory professors and experts on the issue from the greater Atlanta area. What a great way to get involved on the local level, and micro-level (Emory), of food justice issues that impact every individual in a variety of ways.


Gabrielle Rudolph C’18
Inter Religious Council

Sound Listen…

What’s your favorite sound?  Seriously!  Think about that for a second…what is your favorite sound?   I have several…

  • the congregation saying the Lord’s Prayer in unison
  • different languages being spoken in an international airport
  • my brother laughing
  • the Adhan calling the people to prayer

These sounds fill my heart until my eyes almost overflow with tears.

In January, I spent five days at KAICIID, an international center for inter-religious dialogue in Vienna, Austria, as part of their International Interfaith Fellows program.  Twenty-two religious leaders, from 14 countries, representing 5+ religious traditions gathered for five days of training and community building.  Diverse only begins to describe this beloved community,  We reflect the breathtaking beauty of creation!

© Katharina Schiffl / KAICIID

From Myanmar and Serbia, from Nigeria and Argentina, from Saudi Arabia and the United States, we learned about inter-religious dialogue as a tool for conflict transformation and peace building. had five full days of training.  Sounds pretty complex.   The reality is, we reminded ourselves to LISTEN!   We all spoke with our own thick accents – forcing us to listen carefully whenever another spoke.  We learned to listen for fact, feelings, and values.  We learned to listen to body language and other non-verbal communication.  We were inspired to LISTEN – with our hearts!


We have this opportunity every day at Emory University!  We, too, are a beloved community reflecting the breathtaking beauty of creation!  We are bombarded with opportunities to listen, to learn, and to be transformed so that we can be agents of transformation in the world.

In 2018, let’s practice our listening!  Listen for your favorite sound! Discover sounds that fill your heart until tears flow from your eyes.  Listen to the world around you!  Listen to others!.  Listen to your heart!  Listen for the voice of God!

Be still….

Take a deep breath….


I invite you to  share your favorite sounds in the comment section.  Come back and share each time you discover a new one!

Rev. Lisa Garvin
Associate Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life
Emory University, Office of Spiritual and Religious Life


Happy New Year!

happy new year



-author unknown

Take twelve whole months.

Clean them thoroughly of all bitterness, hate, and jealousy.

Make them just as fresh and clean as possible.

Now cut each month into twenty-eight, thirty, or thirty-one different parts, but don’t make up the whole batch at once.

Prepare it one day at a time out of these ingredients:

Mix well into each day one part of faith, one part of patience, one part of courage, and one part of work.

Add to each day one part of hope, faithfulness, generosity, and kindness.

Blend with one part prayer, one part meditation, and one good deed.

Season the whole with a dash of good spirits, a sprinkle of fun, a pinch of play, and a cupful of good humor.

Pour all of this into a vessel of love.

Cook thoroughly over radiant joy, garnish with a smile, and serve with quietness, unselfishness, and cheerfulness.

You’re bound to have a happy new year.

Reflections on Fall and Things Yet Unknown

I was driving home early on Friday morning a couple weeks ago. Stopping at a traffic light I leaned forward to look up at the moon, but only found myself staring at the black night sky between an intrusively bright street lamp and the pale glow of the moon. It was nice to look at nothing. There were no stars, no satellites, no anything. Just nothing. Like anyone with a ‘theological’ background I began to make something out of the nothing up there in the sky between the moon and the street lamp.

What I settled on was the value of the human; the inherent dignity of a person. It is found in the darkness between the streetlight and the light of the moon. It is in the liminality of no answers and seeking answers. It is suffering and celebration all at once in the lightless space that we find ourselves in communion with one another through difference and shared concerns and joys of life’s experiences. Without the space between the light of all that we are perceiving, where else do we have to explore things yet unseen and hidden by the darkness together?

It is nearing the end of the fall semester. Supposedly winter is coming, but there is little indication of its arrival. There is very little indication of anything certain that the future is bringing. Nothing known and yet all things being known are becoming known with each passing moment. The content of the next chapter in Chemistry before the exam is becoming known with each passing moment. The stories of race in America as told through the voice of poets throughout the ages is becoming known throughout each moment. And then there is everything in between the two, all becoming known in its own moment.

fall-autumn-red-season   There is a short story called the Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Bascaglia. Our college choir director, Dr. Albert Hughes, read it to us every autumn as the leaves were turning brilliant hues or red, orange, and yellow. You can read the story here https://achievebalance.com/spirit/theleaf.htm, but spoiler alert: There is a synopsis is below.

The story is one of life, love, curiosity, and knowing. Freddie the leaf lives a full life of growth, learning from a mentor, falling in love, growing old, and eventually he falls silently to the ground to give himself back to the tree and new leaves in the Spring. These are the things of life. These are the things the future holds in its grasp of uncertainty. How well will that exam really go? Will my roommate want to live with me next semester? What am I actually going to pick for my major? Is there a job out there for me? What is this thing they call college debt and how will it impact my ability to be happy? Will I fall in love? Will I find a mentor to confide in and from whom I can learn and grow? When will I see life change in dramatic ways?

In the dark space between the street light and the moon, I find these kinds of questions for myself. I can seek them out and begin to choose what some of those answers are going to be. That’s the beautiful thing about not knowing what the future has in store for us. We get the chance to make it what we want through our furious curiosity and absolute determination to pursue dreams and pursue them in each of their own moments that we create for them. Most purely and simply, the space between two lights, where only the empty darkness fills the expanse is the chance to dream. Before any of us know it, we will be making those dreams happen, making life come flowing from the darkness, to then begin to explore more expanses of darkness and what other unknowns we might create in our futures.

Rev. Kevin Crawford
Assistant Chaplain, Office of Spiritual & Religious Life

Journeys of Reconciliation


Journeys of Reconciliation is a hallmark program of Emory’s Office of Spiritual & Religious Life!  For more than 30 years, we’ve offered students, faculty, staff and alumni a trans-formative experience of domestic and international travel to communities with a history of conflict.  In these communities, we explore the root causes of conflict, listen to the joyous and tragic stories of people and organizations that work for peace and justice, and learn how to be agents of justice and peace. In May, we will travel to South Africa and explore race, memorials and reconciliation.  Learn more and apply here: Journey to South Africa.

Reconciliation is a political term and a religious term – regularly debated and widely criticized.  Fundamentally, reconciliation is about “right relationship” – a relationship hoped for even when it is not fully realized.  Reconciliation cannot be realized alone.  It requires multiple parties, whole communities, and a commitment to mutuality.

Twenty-four hour news networks and our own social media feeds indicate that today’s polarized environment values strong opinions and powerful voices.  The cacophony of loud voices trying to be heard over others plays itself out in society – Charlottesville, police shootings, healthcare policy, and the list goes on.

Journeys of Reconciliation take us into communities to be transformed by stories of struggle, oppression, liberation, and healing.  Journeys is an opportunity to participate in the story of the world through listening.  Journeys is not a “mission trip” –  we do not seek to offer reconciliation to the communities we visit.  Rather, we enter communities with a spirit of courageous inquiry and respectful curiosity – to hear the stories of a difficult history, painful and life-giving truth telling, and visions of a hope-filled future.  In our listening, we offer opportunities for healing to those we meet as we learn about the world, humanity, and ourselves.  Having listened to the stories of South Africa, we imagine how we contribute to inclusive and justice communities at Emory and beyond.

Journey to South Africa Video

Rev. Lisa Garvin
Associate Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life

A Cry of Lament

On October 2, 2017, I woke up to the news that a single shooter opened fire during a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 59 and injuring over 500 people. I was in shock.  It seems like there is a new tragedy every other day; how much more pain, death, or destruction are we expected to endure?  For most of the day I could not find words to describe what I was feeling.

Many people expressed feelings of anger, confusion, and sadness. Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live, bravely opened that night’s monologue in lament. Unsuccessfully fighting back tears, he acknowledged that this is the kind of event that makes you “wonder why,” “makes you want to give up” and is “too much to process”.  Jimmy Kimmel said the things so many of us were thinking, but haven’t been able to say. I have friends and colleagues that shared their concern and anger, but admitted they had not been able to cry. They are fearful that they have become numb to such tragedies. They pray, encourage others to pray, and mobilize relief efforts if appropriate, but they do not weep. In the wake of recent tragedies, one pastor friend admitted what he really wanted to do was crawl in his bed, pull the covers over his head and weep. He did not feel he had permission to fully lament the loss of life, the pain, or the state of the country.

For the past two months I have been writing, preaching, and talking about the need to lament. When I was able to find my voice yesterday, I told as many people as I could that it is okay and necessary to lament and to allow others to do the same. Our nation and the world has experienced so much pain that I am convinced if there is ever a time to lament, individually AND communally; it is NOW.

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.
Psalm 77: 1-3

Let’s be honest, since the events of Charlottesville there has been plenty about which to lament: DACA changes, the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, flooding in parts of Africa, earthquakes in Mexico, and threats of nuclear bombing. That is just in the last two months! Additionally, there are the events that are happening in people’s personal lives and communities: lack of employment, failing relationships, depression, police brutality, injustice against LGBTQ individuals, health battles… just to name a few. People are broken and have questions for God. And rightfully so, but somewhere along the line, we have been told that we should not cry out and we certainly should not express our anger toward or question God. When tragedy strikes, we are told to pray and praise through the situation. But what about when something like Charlottesville or Las Vegas happens? Or a loved one dies? Or there is a devastating health report and you just don’t have a prayer or a praise? People in the church do their best to maintain the expectation of the church being a source of hope and encouragement by advising people to accept these events as God’s will.  In doing so they discourage anger and questioning, often indicating that expressions of lament demonstrate a lack of faith.

But is that healthy? No.

Is that what the Bible teaches? No.

The Bible certainly points to hope and praise, but the book of Lamentations and the lament Psalms remind us that we do indeed have permission to lament, crying out to God, questioning God, and even yelling at God. For example, in Psalm 77 the Psalmist expresses feelings of abandonment by God. Verses seven through nine is a list of questions posed to God during his pain: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has God’s steadfast love ceased forever? Are God’s promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has God in anger shut up his compassion?” Have you ever felt like this? Have you felt like everything that could go wrong in life is going wrong and you have prayed and praised and it does not seem God hears you?

‘Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love ceased for ever?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’

Psalm 77: 7-9

I have certainly felt that way. 18 years ago, I experienced a devastating loss; my daughter died during childbirth. I was broken, angry with God, and had questions: “How could God let this happen? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” I did not know how to move forward, and because I am a “good Christian woman,” I continued going to church, I continued to serve on church committees, attend Bible study, and praise God.  But my praise was not genuine and I felt empty inside. It was not until my pastor gave me permission to truly lament that healing began. She assured me that God was big enough to handle my pain and anger. I cried, I yelled, and said all the things I was afraid to say to God before.  And guess what? I didn’t get thrown into the flames of hell and God didn’t stop loving or blessing me! In fact, amid my lament I realized God was present in my darkness. God was there the entire time waiting for me to be my honest and authentic self so I could feel God’s love for me. Like the ending of many of the lament Psalms, I could remember God’s signs of favor from the past; light broke through darkness and hope entered.

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples. 

Psalm 77: 11-14

Acknowledging pain and hurt does not indicate a lack of faith; being able to engage God honestly and authentically shows profound faith in God’s love for you. During our darkest hour, during the time when we have questions about why a whole island can be destroyed by a hurricane or how a young woman can be run over in Charlottesville while defending the voiceless, God wants us to bring our pain and grief to God.  In doing so our hearts will be opened, light will break through the darkness, and hope will reside.

This blog was initially posted in http://www.rethinkchurch.org/articles/recent-posts/a-cry-of-lament.

Angela Johnson, M.Div.
Interim Communications Coordinator
Emory Office of Spiritual & Religious Life

The Meaning of Life?

September always feels like the beginning of a new year, even more so than January 1st.  Although we mark that day with resolutions and retail sales, it’s still just the middle of winter with a long wait for spring.  But in September, the weather starts to change and so do we.  We anticipate (sometimes with a bit of anxiety) new academic opportunities and meeting new people.  We can also feel disoriented.  Both new and returning students will learn, in some areas, that the old rules no longer apply.  Yet, they will also be affirmed that previous lessons are the foundation for new learning.

When I began seminary many Septembers ago, a recent graduate said to me, “In the midst of all you will encounter here, remember two things.  Be and do.  Be and do.”  Over the years it has become an expanded mantra to me: “In being all I am created to be, I can do all I am called to do.”  Whether you profess to be a person of faith or not, you are on this planet for a reason.  Seeking meaning and purpose is a human instinct.  Is your purpose merely self serving, or connected to something greater than yourself?

Emory students are well known for their commitment to service and volunteerism.  In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we are planning service trips for fall, winter and spring breaks.  We are writing checks and sending donations for relief.  In addition to this important work, this September, I am encouraging another type of reaching out within the Emory campus.  What would it look like if moved a few steps beyond our regular circle of friends?  When did you last take time to learn about someone with whom you have little in common?  We were created to be in community.  Humans thrive on connection.  One of Emory’s core values is to be a collaborative community that works for positive change. It’s how we were created to be.  What will YOU do to embody that vision and value?

Rev. Bridgette Young Ross
Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Life

Welcome Home

Welcome back students! We are excited some of you are here and the rest of you are coming soon! This has been a very fast summer and for many a challenging one as well. This year we welcome you all back, and for many for the first time with a heart of embrace and a place to call home. As you arrive take note of the people around you. They are your family. They have come, just like you, with hopes and dreams of a bright future. They have also arrived with anxieties about being accepted for who they are. Maybe this is also you.

These are years you have to explore what it means to grow maybe one way and then maybe another. These are times you have to wonder about who you can be and how to live fully into who you already are. Emory is a place we as a community have committed to explore together the uniqueness of everyone’s discoveries and transitions. Our office is directed towards the religious and spiritual dimensions of your whole self, but does not neglect any one part of you. You are fully accepted and acknowledged by each of us. With the collaboration of campus ministers, rabbis, and religious life advisors from the five major world religions we seek to foster a practice of embrace across and for difference. We do this without requiring anyone to give up on his, her, or their own identities. You are encouraged to be yourself and flourish in doing so by being in relationships with those who are different from you.

Your differences are what make this community beautiful. They become part of the DNA of the college and the very thing that opens up opportunity for practicing authenticity and growth. As you arrive with all of your uniqueness and difference, arrive together. Arrive with hope that roommates and classmates, custodians and faculty, and everyone in between are all here to grow alongside you. Come with a prayer that because you have inherent value already, that you may be someone who can recognize and teach others how to see that value within themselves.

Be encouraged that you are not the only one encouraging others. Take heart that you are not alone and there are many others who are seeking to grow alongside you. Find practices early on that keep you connected to the people around you as well as grounded in your own self. Don’t become lost in the milieu of grandeur and excellence, but remember where you come from and share that deep meaning with your family. Make this your home.