I appreciate the very thoughtful responses to my letter from Chaplain Spalding, Rabbi Coran, and my friend Morgan Barth ’02. My point was not to assail the Chaplain, who is clearly devoted to leading a multifaith community in an embracing manner, but to raise a larger issue by describing how the invocation and benediction made me feel. That larger issue remains to be addressed head-on.
Any life occasion as significant as graduation naturally stirs spirituality, but does that mean we need to explicitly address it as a group? Rabbi Coran pointed out in her letter that some people feel uncomfortable with any invocation of religion or a higher power, no matter how broad. Is it worth alienating some students and families at Commencement in order to nurture the spiritual experience of others? Those who want a communal celebration of graduation’s religious aspects already have the opportunity to attend Baccalaureate, a ceremony which is specifically designed to incorporate multiple faiths and which is – significantly – optional.
To me, the choice to include a religious message in Commencement seems out of keeping with the sensitivity to diversity I encountered throughout my years at Williams, and I have spoken with others who were similarly surprised. I hope this important discussion will continue.
Grace Rubenstein ’01