February 25, 2021

Join the Buoy Team at this OCRL-sponsored event! Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Panel

January 19, 2021

A cool service opportunity, from Quaker Voluntary Service:

Position: Quaker Voluntary Service Fellow

Community Living | Social Justice | Transformational Spirituality

Job Description:  Quaker ​Voluntary ​Service ​is ​a ​year-long ​Fellowship ​program ​in ​which ​young ​adults ​between ​the ​ages 21-30 ​build intentional community, ​work ​full ​time ​at ​social ​service ​and ​social ​change ​agencies, ​and ​explore themes ​of ​spiritual ​and ​personal ​growth ​with ​local ​Quakers.

An ​ideal ​QVS ​Fellow is committed ​to ​working ​with ​diverse ​community ​members, ​brings a ​willingness to ​explore and practice ​spirituality, ​and is prepared to work ​in ​a ​professional ​setting. ​QVS Fellows ​should ​be ready ​to ​ask ​challenging ​questions ​of ​themselves ​and ​each ​other ​about ​how to ​live ​simply, ​with ​integrity ​and ​justice, ​while ​doing ​meaningful ​and ​mutually ​empowering ​service. ​QVS ​Fellows will work at partner ​site placement organizations addressing ​a ​wide ​range ​of ​social ​and ​environmental issues ​including, ​but ​not ​limited ​to ​economic ​justice, ​racial equity, ​housing ​and ​homelessness, ​education, ​immigration, ​environmental sustainability, ​human ​rights ​issues, ​mental ​and ​physical ​disability, and ​youth justice. 

Fellowships ​are ​available ​in Atlanta,​ ​GA; ​Boston,​ ​MA;​ ​Minneapolis/St.​ ​Paul,​ ​MN;​ ​Philadelphia,  PA;​ ​and​ ​Portland,​ ​OR​. ​QVS ​provides ​housing ​and ​utilities, ​a ​public ​transit ​pass, ​grocery ​allowance or support registering for SNAP, support ​securing ​health ​insurance ​and ​mental ​health ​resources ​as ​needed, ​student ​loan ​counseling and ​assistance, ​a ​simple ​living ​stipend, ​access ​to ​conferences ​and ​trainings, ​dedicated ​time ​for reflection ​and ​community ​building, ​access to an equity fund for Fellows with historically marginalized identities, and ​robust ​support ​from ​staff ​and ​volunteers. 

The ​11-month program runs ​from the end of August to the end of July each year.  

How​ ​to​ ​Apply:​ ​Apply ​by​ ​March​ ​15th ​at 

You ​will ​also ​need ​to ​have ​reference ​forms ​from ​a ​current ​or ​past ​supervisor, ​a ​spiritual mentor/companion, ​and ​a ​housemate ​by ​the March​ ​15th​ ​date, ​which ​can ​take ​a ​while, ​so ​you ​are encouraged ​to ​begin ​the ​process ​now. ​You ​can ​find ​those ​forms ​here: 

For more information, including a list of our partnering agencies, please visit our website at or reach out to [email protected]  



December 11, 2020

The Office of the Chaplains wishes everyone celebrating a happy Hanukkah! For a list of Hanukkah events sponsored by Brown RISD Hillel, click hereRabbi Michelle Dardashti sat down with President of the University Christina Paxson last night for a conversation, reflecting on the themes of the Hanukkah season as well as the student experience in the age of COVID-19. Below are her words of introduction.

President Paxson, it feels deeply meaningful and fitting that you’re here with us for the first night of Hanukkah, not only because you are our university’s fearless leader but also because your leadership--particularly within the last year--has exemplified precisely the miracle that we celebrate on the first night of Hanukkah. 

The rabbis of the Talmud discuss at some length why it was that the first night gets considered a miracle at all. After all, they reason, if we say that the miracle of Hanukkah is that there was only enough oil for one night but it lasted for eight, then aren’t only nights 2-8 miraculous? According to Rabbi David Hartman and others, the miracle of the first night is that they had the courage to light at all, with no promise that there would be enough oil to last through the time of rededication! 

President Paxon, you did this very thing for Brown. One month into the Pandemic you wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which you declared that College Campuses Must Reopen in the Fall. “I am cautiously optimistic that campuses can reopen” you wrote, if “administrators are willing to make bold changes to how they manage their campuses.”

You have made those bold changes and seen us through a remarkably successful semester - but like with Hanukkah, perhaps the most miraculous thing of all is that you had the courage to try. In his 1979 Essay, The Courage to Defy Mass Culture, Hartman writes that “The strength to continue, and to persevere grows by virtue of the courage to initiate a process by lighting the first flame.” You did that. You lit the first flame and thus gave us--and universities across the country--the strength to continue and persevere.

Hanukkah means dedication, because it celebrates the rededication--the reopening--of the Temple after a time of devastation. How fitting.

Many people thought it could not or should not be done - beyond the health concerns, there was the risk of disappointment: what if we opened only to have to close promptly again - what if the oil didn’t last at all? As Hartman writes, “Uncertainty of success often paralyzes one’s initiative to act.” But you were unshaken.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who left this world just over a month ago, had a similar take to Rabbi Hartman; what Hartman called courage--and what you called “cautious optimism”--Sacks called faith. “The miracle of the first night” he wrote “was that of faith itself.”  So, we’re here tonight, this first night of Hanukkah, to honor and learn from your leadership and to thank you for modeling courage and giving all of us--in addition to students, faculty and staff on campuses across the nation--faith that rededication, that reopening was possible. Thank you for lighting the first flame.

December 3, 2020: Chaplains Chapbook

This new biweekly Chaplains Chapbook hopes to provide a sustaining glimpse of inner life for Brown Bubble dwellers all. We welcome your response and submissions. Send them to [email protected], and sign up here!

Being Satisfied During a Season of Waiting 

 Rev. Jermaine L. Pearson, Associate Chaplain of the University for the Protestant Community

Before the arrival of COVID-19 and the closure of most major entertainment venues, the hottest ticket on Broadway and in most cities across the US was the musical Hamilton. I finally had the chance to see it in the summer of 2019 while visiting San Francisco on a day trip from LA, and despite it being rather long, it was the most entertaining show I had ever seen on stage. The combination of acting, singing, rapping, and dancing piqued my inner musical theater nerd and had me downloading the soundtrack as soon as the cast took their final bows. If you have not seen it yet, Disney Plus released it online this past summer with the original Broadway cast. While everyone seems to love the signature piece, My Shot, where Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) fervently proclaims, “I’m not throwing away my shot!” the show-stopping number for me is the song Satisfied. Performed by Angelica Schuyler (Renée Elise Goldsberry), the song takes place as a toast at the wedding reception where Angelica is the maid of honor, and she offers words of encouragement to Alexander Hamilton and her sister Eliza Schuyler. She begins with a toast to the bride and groom, and then the song rewinds to when she meets Alexander for the first time. Alexander tells her: “You're like me. You’re never satisfied.” She’s initially taken aback by his stance but later becomes intrigued by his flirtatious banter. Within a matter of moments, she has to decide if she will pursue this chance at romance, or if she will offer Alexander to her younger sister Eliza, who finds him equally attractive. Hamilton is broke and poor, and as the older sister, her only job is to marry rich in efforts to climb the social ladder of success. Essentially, she has to choose between potential love or her livelihood. If Angelica chooses love, she would be reduced to a state of living that was not conducive to her lifestyle, and she would not be satisfied. However, if she chooses a comfortable livelihood and marries for wealth, she would potentially lose out on the love of her life and still would not be satisfied. For Angelica Schuyler, it’s a lose-lose situation, what we call a catch 22. In the end, Angelica offers Hamilton to her sister Eliza, to have some relationship and see him from time to time. At the end of the song, she reaches this moment of self-awareness, where she’s riddled with emptiness and regret and realizes that she will never be satisfied. In my most humble opinion, it is the most powerful and vulnerable performance, and I understand why it garnered Goldsberry a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

I realize that for many of us, the year 2020 has left us feeling like Angelica Schuyler after her show-stopping number: vulnerable and empty. We have had to make some tough decisions and sacrifices this past year, where it seems like regardless of the outcome, it is a lose-lose situation. We have had to choose between love, spending time with family and friends, or maintaining our livelihoods and well-being by staying safe in the confines of our apartments and homes. We have neglected social outings, such as birthdays, and even everyday routine activities, like yoga and the gym, to maintain socially distant lifestyles. Some of these decisions have come at the expense of our mental health, and being socially distant has taken a toll on us emotionally and mentally. If I can be honest and transparent, even as a chaplain, I have had moments when I have felt empty over the past 10 months. However, one thing that keeps me going, despite the weariness of a pandemic and lack of human interaction, is hope. I have hope that things will get better, and I’m going to be satisfied while in this season of waiting.

With a year filled with a relentless and unyielding pandemic, racial upheaval, several deaths of friends, family, and celebrity mentors, this feeling of hope has sustained me. It continues to sustain me even as Rhode Island is on the precipice of yet another two-week semi-lockdown. Ironically, this lockdown falls at the beginning of what we Christians celebrate as the Season of Advent, a season of waiting in expectation for the birth of our holy savior. I realize that many of you reading this message practice different faith traditions; however, regardless of our religious identities, most of us can understand what it’s like to wait in expectation for something and not necessarily know when it will come to pass.

We wait in expectation for a vaccine for COVID-19, and we have hope that we will be able to embrace each other when we see each other in passing. We have hope that our economy will rebound and that that the unemployed will find jobs post-pandemic. For those millennials struggling with student loan debt, we have hope that we will see some loan forgiveness in the future. We hope that the world will finally begin to see the humanity in one another regardless of our racial, religious, and sexual identities. So, we wait in expectation for a better tomorrow, a better future, with the hopes that our latter years will be greater than our former.

Last week, I felt down because I could not travel to Chicago for Thanksgiving and experience my mother’s famous sweet potato pie. I went to my local grocery store and picked up a Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie. As I bit into this Patti pie, I realized that it was certainly not my mother’s and was not what I expected. It was just okay, decent at best, as the spices were different from my mother’s……….I still ate the whole pie. Even though it didn’t taste like Shirl Pearson’s pie, it was fulfilling and satisfied my sweet tooth, which provided me with some Thanksgiving normalcy; I was still thankful and was satisfied. This pie experience was reflective of my entire year. 2020 has taught me to be grateful and satisfied with the things that I do have instead of things that I don't. My sincerest prayer is that while you are in your season of waiting, you sincerely have hope while being thankful and satisfied with what you already have.

November 19, 2020: Chaplains Chapbook

This new biweekly Chaplains Chapbook hopes to provide a sustaining glimpse of inner life for Brown Bubble dwellers all. We welcome your response and submissions. Send them to [email protected], and sign up here!

Barbershop Shukr: On the Practice of Gratitude

 Imam Amir A. Toft, Associate Chaplain of the University for the Muslim Community

This has been a suboptimal year. And as it treads toward its close—and especially as we enter the wintry stretch of Covid before at last being released, we hope, into a new bloom of life—it is easy to find our reservoirs of joy running low if not indeed already run dry. Most of us have, quite humanly, sought to treat our beleaguered souls by expressing sadness, anger, distress, exasperation to those within trusted circles (and venting them as well, perhaps too often, into the void of social media). Yet such treatments, though restorative for a time, may give way to a condition that has worsened beneath the temporary relief. The medicine, administered too liberally, turns to poison. I can only speak for myself, quite sickened of constantly talking about disease and political strife, but you might feel the same. What is most difficult to capture, especially in moments of great agitation, is a deep contentment and tranquility of spirit.

When casting about for perspective in such moments, many turn, as I do as well, to the wisdom stored in such things as sacred writ and great literature. Sometimes, however, the loftiest wisdom can be found in the most mundane places. For me it’s the barbershop. (Or at least it used to be, before seemingly everyone started shearing their locks at home if not abandoning the enterprise altogether.)

My barber of some ten years, before moving to Providence, was someone I looked forward to seeing every month. Muhammad (not his real name) didn’t have a string of accolades to boast of—no fancy education, no big bank balance, no high-profile influencer status—apart from being a hard-working owner of his own business. He had foibles like the rest of us; he was perhaps even not, nor did he expect to be seen as, the best role model in all areas of life. But each visit, it seemed, Muhammad would treat me to some new knowledge or perspective. He’d often drop on me a piece of the Arabic poetry he had picked up over the years, in that way that ordinary people from other cultures still seem to do. We’d banter about religion and politics and have friendly arguments. We’d talk of our personal lives, and over the years he shared with me his personal and professional hardships. One episode stands out to this day.

It was several years ago, and I went in and asked Muhammad as usual how he was doing. “My father passed away,” he said, adding that the death had been sudden and unexpected. Knowing his father to be abroad, I expressed my sympathies and asked whether he would be going home to visit and grieve with extended family. Muhammad explained that, because of some quirks in the law and his background, he occupied a sort of immigration no-man’s land—perfectly legal in status but unable to leave and re-enter the country. “I’m so sorry,” came my feeble response. “It’s okay, brother,” he said calmly, following it up with Alhamdulillah, a common praise of God. “We have to thank God for what he gives us in life.” He then thanked me for my friendship and kept on cutting my hair.

In doing so, my friend unselfconsciously emulated the Prophet Muhammad, who, when asked why he kept the prayer candle burning through the night alongside his daytime burdens, said, “Shall I not be a grateful servant of God?” My friend preferred to be joyful and grateful in a moment when others, including myself, might have been despondent and bitter. And so it is, I have found again and again, that those who have gone through the most hardship are the most alive to the blessings that they have and the most magnanimous in expressing shukr, or gratitude, for them.

That kind of contentment with the fortunes of life, together with the ability to carry on serenely with the business of living, is within the reach of each of us. For some, especially those who enjoy considerable material comfort, it may be harder to attain than for others. But one step to getting there, available to all of us, is to practice gratitude. Not to cogitate about it abstractly, but to actively display and express our gratitude for all the mundane things and to all the mundane people in our lives. And to do so even when it doesn’t entirely make sense. For if we can discover the barber’s insight on life, we may find, to paraphrase the Quran (14:34), that we will never fully be able to number the favors of God.

November 5, 2020: Chaplains Chapbook

 This new biweekly Chaplains Chapbook hopes to provide a sustaining glimpse of inner life for Brown Bubble dwellers all. We welcome your response and submissions. Send them to [email protected], and sign up here!

 Soft Like a Reed: Writing a Future We Can’t Yet See
by Rabbi Michelle Dardashti

At the time of my writing, election results aren’t clear. We’re in limbo – a hard posture to sustain with grace, but one worth practicing, because regardless of what news is delivered in the coming hours and days, there is no telling what will happen next. This vulnerable position of not knowing—magnified by the pandemic and by our political moment—is at the core of what it means to be human. The only real question is how we meet and move through it. Will we flee to an illusory place of greater certainty or will we roll up our sleeves and root ourselves firmly within what Parker Palmer calls the Tragic Gap. 

Some years back, I was fortunate to be among the dozen clergy and educators to participate in a retreat with Parker Palmer, a Quaker philosopher and pedagogue, founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal.  On the final afternoon of our time together, he shared with us his teachings on the “The Tragic Gap.”  

On one side of the gap, teaches Palmer, stands all that is wrong in the world; on the other side, is all that we know to be possible in the way of goodness, equality and justice. This gap is tragic in that it will always exist between the world as it is and the world for which we yearn. The question is only one of endurance: do we have what it takes to continually stand in that tension-filled place between reality and possibility, or will be lured into the tempting alternatives of corrosive cynicism (a result of exclusively seeing what is) or irrelevant idealism (a product of excessively envisioning the realm of what might be). 

While the two might seem like opposites, one can see how both the corrosive cynic and the irrelevant idealist might sit out voting or choose not to take Covid precautions seriously. The cynic’s reasoning might be that the apocalypse is coming and/or that we’re all going to die anyway (or, less dramatically, that politics is broken and masks are bogus); the idealist might insist that everything is going to be okay and that rhetoric around the high stakes of this election or the threat of Covid-19 is exaggerated. Indeed, as Palmer writes in Healing the Heart of Democracy, “Cynicism and idealism … have the same result: both take us out of the action by pulling us out of the tragic gap….”

Parker Palmer names faithfulness and a capacity for heartbreak as the qualities that enable us to remain and act meaningfully from within The Gap. In unpacking what he means by these, however, I turn to a Jewish source from the 7th Century.  Avot d'Rabbi Natan teaches as follows: “A person should always be soft like a reed and not hard like a cedar. In the case of a reed, all the winds come and blow upon it and reed bends with it. The wind ceases and the reed returns to its place. Therefore the reed merited to become a quill to write a Torah scroll.” 

This text asserts that we need to be soft not because it’s nice, but because it’s strategic. The reed’s flexibility allows for resilience; its rootedness means it wins out over the long hall, even if it sways in the wind. The text goes on to say that the cedar gets used to build rooves, but that any remains are thrown into the furnace: it’s useful as a defensive mechanism, but ultimately, it burns out! The reed gets to write our sacred narrative – it inscribes our destiny. 

With polls as painfully close as they are, the only thing we know for sure in this moment is that the work before us isn’t going to let up, regardless of which way the election goes. The future won’t be decided or defined by who wins it but by the work we do in its wake, by the grit and faithfulness with which we stand boldly in The Tragic Gap, the so often grueling and heartbreaking place of becoming. Writing a world we can’t yet see is what we’re here to do. 

Octavia Butler (as excerpted in a fabulous summer 2014 TWTP booklet) says it best:

All social change is speculative fiction because we’ve never seen a world without poverty, never seen a world with total equality, never seen a world without prisons…therefore activism IS speculative fiction, it’s visionary fiction because we are writing a world we’ve never seen but a world we’d like to live in. It’s hard and unapologetic but it’s hopeful because it can cause us to move; it wakes up and shows us that change is possible.

Here’s to our being as rooted, resilient and prolific as the reed. The Gap beckons.

October 29, 2020

Join the Chaplains this Sunday at 5 pm for a discussion on how to navigate this troubled election season. Via Zoom.


October 27, 2020

Mark Steinbach, Brown University Organist and Senior Lecturer in Music, will perform the annual Midnight Halloween Organ Recital on October 31 at 11:59pm from Sayles Hall on the 1903 Hutchings-Votey pipe organ. This year, the performance will be streamed to audiences live via Zoom.

View the performance below!

October 22, 2020: Chaplains Chapbook

This new biweekly Chaplains Chapbook hopes to provide a sustaining glimpse of inner life for Brown Bubble dwellers all. We welcome your response and submissions. Send them to [email protected], and sign up here!

Do What You Do

Fr. Albert Duggan, Associate Chaplain of the University for the Catholic Community

While exploring the grounds of the new Catholic Center, I came across a granite pillar on which were inscribed the words: AGE QUOD AGIS.

I knew enough Latin to realize it meant, roughly, “Do what you do.” That sounded a little trite. Not the sort of thing you would inscribe in stone. Suspiciously like the expression: "You do you." 

So I did some research, both about the significance of the inscription as well as the genesis of this particular monument. A neighbor told me that the original owner of the house was Catholic. As it turns out, this is an important maxim in the spirituality of the Jesuit Order, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. Literally, it means “Do what you are doing.”

But more to the point, it implies focusing your energy and effort on the task at hand.

We might elaborate on the phrase… 

Do what you are doing, and do it well.

Do what you are doing, and don’t try to do something else.

Don’t get distracted from the task at hand.

Don’t spend all your time daydreaming about what could be,

all the while ignoring what is right in front of you.

Let me use a mundane example. I like coffee. If you've been in my office, maybe you've seen my French press and coffee grinder. They say this is one of the best ways to make coffee. It takes a little extra time and work, but if you do it right, the result is excellent coffee.

You heat the water to 200-205 degrees. You grind the beans right beforehand, slightly coarser than usual. Then, having measured out the proper ratio of ground coffee to water, you pour a little hot water over the coffee to let it "bloom." Then you add the rest of the water, stir, and let it steep for four minutes. Then you push the plunger down, but not too fast. Then, and only then, is the coffee ready to pour and enjoy (and in better days to come, share with someone else!).

If you set aside the time and concentrate on the task at hand, the results are markedly better than if you take shortcuts (e.g., using pre-ground coffee, not bothering to measure) or if you try to multi-task. I’ll admit that what trips me up most of the time is that, while the coffee is steeping, I go to check my e-mail and get distracted, losing track of time. The coffee is oversteeped. Okay, but not great. I think, “Well…maybe next time, I’ll get it right.”

If I really want to make coffee the Age-Quod-Agis way, I need to set aside the time, perhaps 10 minutes, and say "For these 10 minutes, I'm going to make coffee. I'm not checking my e-mail. I'm not surfing the web. I'm just going to make coffee the best way I know how."

As human beings, we're not good at dividing our attention. We might think we are. We might feel we're more productive when we multi-task. But more often than not, the result

is that we accomplish many things of comparatively lower quality, with less joy.

When we read, how well do we read?

When we are with friends, how well to we listen? How well do we express ourselves?

When we write a paper, how well do we write?

When we pray, how fervently do we pray?

Sometimes we get distracted, or rush through a task, or do it poorly because our heart is simply not in it. It happens, and we need not be embarrassed by that. We get pulled in so many directions. Our heart can't be in everything all the time. Our minds can’t focus on everything.

But, when all is said and done, our hearts and minds are most content and most energized when they can give themselves more fully to one object. At the very least: one thing at a time.

Even if a particular task seems mundane, it's worth doing well. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” Doing mundane things well has the power to transform us into the sort of people who do great things well. what you are doing, the best way you know how.


October 7, 2020: Chaplains Chapbook

Of Prayers and Bubbles

Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain of the University

The Brown Bubble opened its Gates figuratively just a month ago to welcome us to a beloved place of friendship, comfort, challenge and beauty; a sweet seclusion against we often struggle to insure that we engage reality; and yet it is an indelibly beloved address whose privilege is hard to overstate. The Brown Bubble embraces much and many. Spiritual life and the practice of prayer bubbles within the Bubble--endless varied, and often just out of view. This new biweekly Chaplains Chapbook hopes to provide a sustaining glimpse of inner life for Brown Bubble dwellers all. We welcome your response and submissions. Send them to [email protected], and sign up here!

It is fair to say that this autumn the Brown Bubble is quite different. Spiritually, we are doing our best to stay and keep others safe while navigating a threatened world. We worry. Almost overhearing us, the extraordinary New England poet Mary Oliver, who died earlier this year, replies:

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers 

flow in the right direction, will the earth turn 

as it was taught, and if not how shall 

I correct it? 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, 

can I do better? 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 

can do it and I am, well, 


Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 

am I going to get rheumatism, 

lockjaw, dementia? 

Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 

And gave it up. And took my old body 

and went out into the morning, 

and sang. 

We too go out into the morning and sing--though for this season, we must sing by ourselves, outside, and at considerable distance from anyone. For my part, I pray, and I pray for Brown. I send you this year’s Convocation prayers with my heartfelt hope that they may evoke your prayer--however you express your heart’s deepest petitions.

May we, collectively, bubblingly, sustain honest hope and useful life within and beyond our beloved Brown Bubble. Blessings, dear Brown! 

At Convocation: September 8, 2020 

Brunonians near and far, dearest elders--alumni, faculty, benefactors and friends, newest students--including the not-yet-arrived Class of 2024:

 Today, we don our regalia to assert as always that it is Convocation Day, no matter

how unusual. And as always, as your Chaplain, I bid you pray… 

 Today my prayer is rooted in the deep wisdom of elders. The ancient prophet Micah who asks--And what does the Lord require? That you love justice, do kindness and walk humbly with God. 

The Abolitionist, activist and scholar, Frederic Douglas, who wrote: I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who records: For many of us, the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips, and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.   

 And from Adrienne Rich’s remarkable poem Final Notation in The Atlas for a Difficult World:

You are taking parts of us into

places never planned… 

you are going far away with

pieces of our lives 

it will be short, it will take

all your breath 

it will not be simple, it will

become your will 

 Their voices strengthen mine--and so I bid you pray--with your head, heart and your legs. 

 Hear and hold us as of old. Grief and loss cloud our nation and world. Almost amazed we gather, grateful for health and our profound privilege; created by family, benefactors, faculty and a vast set of University leaders whose generous imagination and tireless work, walk and built the path we walk, through the Gates and into this term--apart, in body but joined in heart. Grant us humility and gracious humor to navigate carefully, awkwardly, masked, distanced, worried, finding our privilege in caring for and encouraging one another. We hear the wisdom of the great souls who trod trying seasons before us, named and unnamed. Infuse us with their courage to stride beyond isolating fear and self-interest, walking toward and committed to building an inclusive new community--a beloved community. Grant us courageous acuity. Sorrow’s harsh light shines on racism’s deadly national injustice. May protests yield new structures and maps, streets, monuments, bridges named to honor those who dismantled wrong and built the good. This, surely, is our work of defiant, sacred Hope--In Deo Speramus has long been the calling of Brunonians. Autumn’s beckoning corroborates what Douglass saw in the graceful freedom of sailing ships. This long season of hardship will turn--Hope’s shores still await us. We yearn with Heschel to arrive on those shores--praying with our legs to step across the confines of identity, to insist on our neighbor’s good--to release the imprisoned; to welcome the stranger to our nation; to shield the vulnerable from illness and harm. We raise our voices without equivocation to affirm that Black Lives Matter--everywhere--in College Hill’s classrooms, at the State House, church, mosque and temple, from sea to shining sea. May we hear a whispered, then shouted, reply in the joy of children and their families released from fear and trauma. Nightmares transformed into songs of justice flourishing. Brunonians--in this never before season, grateful for all that sustains us in life and brings us gladly to this day—Together let us open a path of blessing, knowing with the poet Adrienne Rich, that it will:  “take us to places never planned; it will take all of our breath and not be simple, but together, it can become our will.”  In our hope, in walking prayer, may we become and create blessing for others, this day and always, Amen.


September 21, 2020

Mark SteinbachMark Steinbach

If you would like to watch and hear University Organist Mark Steinbach's Late Night Organ Recital from this past Sunday, you may watch the performance on YouTube and/or Facebook. Enjoy!


September 11, 2020

From Rabbi Michelle Dardashti:

First Shabbat "Back" ;)
Start: 11 SEP 2020 6:00pm
End: 11 SEP 2020 6:30pm
Description: Join the BRH community in taking a collective breath after our first week "back," whether we're physically back in PVD (yet) or not. See/make some friends, light some candles and raise a glass (or kiddush cup) to the strangest semester of our lives! At 6:30pm, those of you who miss the sounds of the Beit Midrash on Friday nights are invited to stay on for some of Havurah KabShab's greatest hits ;). (Havurah is a Recon/Conservative-ish minyan and the Beit Midrash is the room in Hillel where it met weekly, in a songful circle, Pre-Covid!)

May 24, 2020

The Office of the Chaplains offers our warmest congratulations and blessings to those graduating today. Since we can't all be together in person on this Commencement day, here is a video from members of the extended OCRL community offering their own blessings to the Class of 2020.


May 22, 2020 / 28 Iyar 5780

COVID and Calendars, by Rabbi Michelle Dardashti

“Man plans, God laughs.” Though I doubt God finds Covid-19 particularly funny, this Yiddish expression – “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht”- has felt all too apt. In the Corona era, planning can feel rather futile. But experiencing this pandemic through the lens of the Jewish calendar has been both striking and grounding.

First, there was Purim. The holiday of topsy-turvy coincided with our world turned upside down. We were yet naïve about how bad this would get; my mishloah manot featured Coronas and lime and I put up signs that read: “In order to prevent the spread of the AchashVIRUS, remember to Vashti hents!”

Then came Pesach. It offered us Seder, order, amidst the chaos. But it was also sobering. Sickness and death from plague, spread swiftly and suddenly through our country, as it did through Mitzrayim.

And thus began the Omer, with its daily count, allowing us to make sense of and distinguish between the passing days, each spent repetitively – in our homes, in front of our screens.

The new moon of Iyyar followed; an acronym for “I am God, Your Healer,” Iyyar has brought our wounds into stark relief, and made desperate our pleas for healing…

And throughout all of this, of course, we’ve had Shabbat: our weekly lifeline and marker, our taste of eternity and glimpse of majesty amidst the morbidity and monotony.

Coming our way next is Shavuot, with its climactic promise of revelation. That would be nice – to have revealed answers which have alluded us:  When will this be over?  Will I make it through in life and health? Employed? Will my loved ones?  Will the holidays happen in person this fall? Will my kids’ school? Will anything?

The hard truth is that it’s unlikely we’ll have much greater clarity in these realms by the 6th of Sivan, the day we celebrate receiving the Torah, any more than the Sinaitic experience responded to the Israelites’ questions – What will we have to eat and drink? When will we arrive “there”? And where exactly is “there”? But in a way, Z’man Matan Torahteinu does reveal, or remind us, of everything we really need to know.

Through the experience at Sinai, the Jewish people forge a covenant with God and with one another. It is at Sinai, through together receiving the Torah, that we transform from a band of refugee slaves into a people with a purpose and a plan. Shavuot reminds us that we are still that people and that our purpose and plan are not only still relevant, but in fact more vital than ever.

The prescriptions for leading a meaningful life—found in the Torah and built into Jewish communal life—address the critical yearning for connectedness that is timeless and so palpable amidst this pandemic. We’ve had to grow ever more nimble and creative in how we navigate the Wilderness, but we can rely on Judaism to help guide us through. We learn to put one foot in front of the other and we learn to pause. The map inherited at Sinai is as basic as it is profound.


May 15, 2020 / 21 Iyar 5780

Some Pre-Shabbat and Pre-Summer Wisdom from Rabbi Dardashti – 5/15/20 – 21 Iyar 5780

"Now What?"

You’ve made it. You’ve made it through finals (or just about) and now you can close your books and -- ?!

In any other year, you’d be getting ready to celebrate with friends and head out of town and onto your next adventure. But this year?  This year, the day after finals, and the week after that, may have a disconcerting sameness to them; your next adventure may feel out of reach and utterly uncertain.

This week’s Torah portion, the last in the book of Leviticus, leaves us with a similar feeling. When we close this book tomorrow, what faces us is a vast wilderness; the next book of the Torah is in fact called Bamidbar, “In The Wilderness.” How does one muster the strength to face and journey through a wilderness? That’s the daunting question we’re all called to address in this moment.

As we depart into the wilderness of summer, without the harness of classes, without great mobility and possibly without the jobs or internships anticipated, here are three tried and true practices for the trek:

1.       Give Shabbat a whirl. There’s never been a better time to take a break from work and technology for one day a week to reset and renew: the semester is through, screen time has become overwhelming and, let’s be real, there’s no place you have to be.

2.      Lean into the uncertainty. Our tradition teaches that the Torah was given in the wilderness because of its ownerlessness and its openness; we learn that one must surrender control and make oneself as open as the wilderness to receive the wisdom we seek.

3.       Reach out. Remember that trekking alone is unnecessary and ill-advised. Please know that all of us at Hillel stand ready to connect throughout the summer, to dig into all of the above and more. You are never alone.

For now, we send you off with blessings for shalom and sheleimut—peace and fulfillment—and the words with which we close every book of the Torah: hazakhazakv’nithazek – strength, strength, and we shall be strengthened.

May 14, 2020

April 28, 2020

Join the chaplains of the University for a few minutes of inspiration and solace.
Every Thursday at Noon, 12 to 12:10 p.m. EDT via Facebook Live: 
This Thursday (April 30):
Rabbi Michelle Dardashti, Associate Chaplain of the University for the Jewish Community/Brown-RISD Hillel
Megan O'Brien Crayne, Campus Minister, Brown-RISD Catholic Community

April 23, 2020

Amir Toft, our new Associuate Chaplain of the University for the Muslim Community, will be having a live daily Qur’an recitation at 12 pm ET, with the intention of completing the recitation of the entire Qur’an over the course of the month. Those wishing to join live to listen and/or follow along may do so via Zoom. Please write to [email protected] if you are interested in joining.

April 9, 2020

An opportunity to join Jermaine Pearson, our Associate Chaplain of the University for the Protestant Community as he preaches at Beneficent Church tomorrow, April 10:

Tomorrow at 12pm, all are invited to an hour-long Good Friday service of readings, music, and reflections on Jesus’ Seven Last Words. Please join us for this virtual spirit-filled journey.

See here for Beneficient's bulletin: Good Friday Bulletin

April 9, 2020

An opportunity for Brown students from the Community Dialogue Project:


We hope this message finds you feeling grounded in the midst of this very challenging and uncertain time. We recognize that the state of our lives, communities, and world have drastically changed in the last four weeks. Given the abrupt shut down of Brown and the public health and economic crises of this moment, the Community Dialogue Project is creating a virtual community care space for students who are experiencing challenges regarding family, housing, mental health or their living environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We want this community gathering space to meet your needs, so we need your input! If you feel like this is something you are interested in potentially joining, we ask that you fill out this INTEREST FORM by Sunday, April 12. All responses will be anonymous and will solely be used to help design the gathering space we offer. Please complete the form if you’re able and also email [email protected] to get the Zoom invite for the group.

If you have any questions you can reach out to Dara Bayer, Transformative Justice Program Coordinator, at [email protected] or Marc Peters, Assistant Director of Community Dialogue and Campus Engagement, at [email protected]

We look forward to being in community with you!

Dara & Marc

Community Dialogue Project 


April 8, 2020

The Brown/RISD Catholic community will be hosting Holy Week Prayers on Zoom. See below for details:


April 9 at 10:00am

Holy Thursday Prayers

The Brown-RISD Catholic Community is hosting remote prayer gatherings for Holy Week.  On Thursday morning, we'll come together on Zoom to pray with psalms and readings from the Liturgy of the Hours.  All members of the Brown Community to join at 10:00am ET using this Zoom link:

April 10 at 10:00am

Good Friday Prayers

The Brown-RISD Catholic Community is hosting remote prayer gatherings for Holy Week.  On Friday morning, we'll come together on Zoom to pray with psalms and readings from the Liturgy of the Hours.  All members of the Brown Community to join at 10:00am ET using this Zoom link:  

April 11 at 10:00am

Holy Saturday Prayers

The Brown-RISD Catholic Community is hosting remote prayer gatherings for Holy Week.  On Saturday morning, we'll come together on Zoom to pray with psalms and readings from the Liturgy of the Hours.  All members of the Brown Community to join at 10:00am ET using this Zoom link:  


April 6, 2020 / 12 Nisan 5780 

Rabbi Michelle Dardashti offers these words for a Passover in the midst of a pandemic. See here for resources for hosting and celebrating a virtual Passover.

What Does It Look Like On the Other Side?

In every generation, we’re asked to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt.

For this generation, certainly this year, Egypt is Covid. The root of the word Egypt, in Hebrew, is tzar “narrow.” The Hebrew root of Coved is kaved, “heavy.”

This year, our universal narrowness is a heaviness called Covid. Its weight and its constriction--its reach and its lethality--are unfathomable. As impossible to wrap our heads around as any of the plagues of Egypt. Is this what it felt like?

Not all of us—yet—feel the full weight of Covid’s heaviness upon our families, upon our incomes, upon our lungs. But we are all impacted, regardless of age, class, race or geography.

The question is: how will we emerge from under this heavy weight?

How will we as individuals look different? How will our families look different? Our neighborhoods? Our schools? Our activism? Our places of worship? Our places of work? Our states, countries, our universe? 


In every generation, we’re asked to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt.

This year, we have a unique--and weighty--opportunity: to truly decide what we’ll look like on the other side, if/when we God willing, make it there. When the virus is through, if/when we have our freedom again to roam, to be proximate, what will that freedom look like? How will we reengage with our neighbors, our needy, our jobs, friends, technology - ourselves?

We know now better than ever how to maintain distance. What will freedom to physically reconnect look like? Will we want it back? 

Many of us are resonating with the idea of Covid as the plague of Darkness. It’s a plague that makes us unable to see our neighbors, a plague that keeps us stuck where we are, precipitating hoarding and suspicious glances, when we do step out our front door. It is heavy, indeed, and it threatens to crush: my empathy, my goodness, my very ability to see the others’ needs, presence, claims upon me.

But the opposite of both darkness and heaviness is light.

The Seder was an institution meant to address the paradigm shift in which the rabbis found themselves in the wake of the Temple's destruction. The Passover story and Seder similarly inspire and inform our own moment of re-learning how to live into our days and our traditions.

May this Passover shed light – light on who and how we want to be when the great weight and darkness of Covid is lifted. 

Please God, may I see you on the other side. In health, in wholeness, in peace. May we see ourselves and one another with enlightened eyes.

April 2, 2020 / 8 Nisan 5780

On staying inside, and all its permutations, from Rabbi Michelle Dardashti:



That’s been the best, most consistent and scientific advice we’ve been given for how to escape Covid-19. On a physical level, we experience this as quite a constricting formula for achieving freedom. Spiritually, however, going inside truly is a prescription for liberation. We’ve been told to “go home” - we’ve been invited home to ourselves, invited to scour our inner selves. 

The last few weekends, I’ve found myself zealously motivated to CLEAN.  I’ve sifted and sorted through shelves, closets, cabinets and drawers more vigorously than, perhaps ever! Not to sanitize against sickness, but rather, to make order – I’ve felt an irrepressible desire to liberate myself from clutter, from excesses, mess and muck.

This is the sort of “cleaning out” that Passover is meant to prompt: a rigorous search for and destruction of all hametz in our lives. Hametz is leaven, it’s the unnecessarily puffed up parts of our lives - the stuff that’s not serving us. The coincidence of our fight to escape Covid with our preparation for reliving our people’s escape from Egypt has inspired in me a deep desire to separate out that which is essential in my life—that which keeps the flame of my soul alight—and that which is not.

On this Shabbat before Passover, we’ll read about the esh tamid, the fire that burned eternally in the temple. Over this Shabbat and the days leading up to Passover, consider what shiny gems about yourself and your needs you have discovered over the last three weeks. What aspects of “life before Covid” light you up and what’s simply in your way? May we all find and rid ourselves of plenty of hametz in the coming days, and may we find that for all the chaos Covid has wrought, there will also be deep learning and seder (order) born of all this “staying inside.”

April 1, 2020:

A message from the Chaplain of the University:

More a love letter than an op-ed, I write with a deep April heartache for beloved, far-flung Brunonia and a suffering world. Everywhere, everything has changed. College Hill is now oddly quiet, despite a loud riot of daffodils and magnolias defiantly gathered to bloom. 

Suddenly dispersed, we are broadcasters, frontline reporters and those seeking refuge in myriad virus epicenters. Tucked inside our necklines is a metaphoric locket holding beloved portraits, our many identities and homes, a composite of an aching global landscape. Our fingers search nervously for the locket’s clasp, and perhaps we laugh out loud at the tiny replica of Brown’s beloved Blueno, light on, holding the locket’s chain tight.  We Brunonians all don such metaphorical jewelry — keeping us together at heart. 

Read the rest here.

March 15, 2020:

In light of the COVID-19 situation, the Chaplains of the University are holding the Brown community in our prayers and remain fully available, even as we work remotely.  Brown community members may send requests for counsel, support, information or prayer by email to the Chaplain of the University: [email protected]

Individual members of the OCRL team can also be reached directly at the addresses listed on our website   Including best timing and contact numbers will help us to reply promptly. 

We hope to resume the meetings of several groups remotely after Spring break and will post appropriate information also on our website.  

In urgent matters or at off-hours, please reach us through Brown’s Department of Public Safety: 401.863.3322