Warm. Welcoming. Restorative. Hearth encompasses the best qualities of Bates. In this special space, every other Thursday, students and faculty are able to consume comfort food and share silence. Last night, Hearth took place in Clayton Spencer’s house, and I was worried that the new location would threaten the atmosphere that Hearth establishes—my worries dissipated immediately.
Comfy armchairs arranged themselves in small, intimate circles; smiles filtered among the rooms, and the continuous flicker of tea candles brought light to the evening.
We marked the beginning of the gathering with introductions and a moment of silence. And our informal dinner consisted of engaging conversation and lasagna (of course, vegan and gluten free options were available). Participants chose which of the three rooms they wanted to spend the rest of their evening in—I chose the dining room. Multifaith student leaders then proposed the two queries for the evening. Last night, the first was: What are you trying to shake off? And the second was: If you are a sponge, what are you trying to absorb?
Each person can respond if they feel so inclined, but you support the others who chose to share by holding the silence. There are no questions, no limitations, except that whatever is shared is respectfully not spread by the listeners. It is a freeing experience to express your thoughts in such an accepting space. We laugh and nod and cry.
By the time our conversation reaches its natural end, I feel whole. All of the stress and tension from the demanding week of midterms slid off of me. On my way back to my dorm, I felt light and filled with peace. Anyone who wants to encounter the best Bates has to offer should make their way to Hearth.
Main image from Bates Multifaith Chaplaincy.