A Message from the Dean
We look with uncertainty
by Anne Hillman
We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
“We stand at a new doorway, awaiting that which comes…” As we journey toward the end of a year, I am reminded of this poem by Anne Hillman that weds the inevitable uncertainty and joy of new beginnings. It seems December is often an in between time. Our Facebook feeds are filled with year in review videos while ads ask us what new year’s resolutions we will make (and how their products can help us). We stand somewhere between the past and future, remembering all that has been in electric anticipation of that which might be.
In many religious traditions this in between time is sacred time, holy time, liminal time. In fact, limen in Latin simply means threshold. It is the time between one place and another. In the in-between, all things are possible having been freed from the shackles of the past and yet not fully formed into something new. John O’Donohue describes the gift of threshold moments in life like this,
“To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging…. To sense and trust this…can free us into a natural courage that casts out fear and opens up our lives to become voyages of discovery, creativity, and compassion.”
Indeed, threshold crossing is a challenge whenever it comes whether at the end of a year, at the end of semester, or at the end of a time together. And, yet, we know that on the other side lies unimaginable possibilities for new life.
As this year comes to a close and we turn toward the next, we at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life are looking forward to a new beginning. This month, Senior Vice-President and Dean of Students Sheilah Shaw Horton announced the appointment of Amira Quraishi as interim dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
This appointment comes as I have accepted a call to become dean of religious life at Stanford University. While it was not my intention to leave Wellesley College so soon in my tenure, it became clear through prayer and reflection that this was the right next step for me, for my family, and for the communities at both Stanford and Wellesley. I have loved my time at Wellesley College and will always consider myself a part of this exceptional campus community. However, as a United Methodist, I made a vow to be itinerant. This means I am bound to open myself to the needs of the communities I serve, understanding that my gifts and graces are needed in particular places for particular times. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once instructed his preachers to “go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most.”
I find myself at a threshold moment in between calls from Wellesley and Stanford. My gifts and graces have been called elsewhere. Having worked over the past several years to strengthen Wellesley's religious and spiritual life on campus, I am confident the campus will benefit from a new leader who will offer their own particular gifts and graces for Wellesley's next chapter.
There is certainly no one better equipped to lead ORSL during this time of transition than Amira Quraishi. Before coming to Wellesley College, Amira earned an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on the intersection of Islamic jurisprudence and Sufism. She also holds an MA in Middle East Studies from New York University, where her thesis was “An Analysis of the Legal Methodology for Hijab (Modest Dress.)” She has a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Davis. Amira has taught courses on Islam at the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College and served as the Advisor to the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Association and on the Johns Hopkins University Interfaith board of chaplains from 2005-2007. Amira is active in developing the field of college chaplaincy. She is a Co-Founder and Co-President (2015 - present) of the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplains, a professional membership organization for Muslim Chaplains at academic institutions. Amira attributes her love for a deeply spiritual and intellectual expression of Islam to her experiences growing up at the Muslim Youth Camp of California (MYC). She served on the MYC Board as Head Counselor and brings to her chaplaincy twenty years of counseling experience.
The College has begun to work with a search firm in anticipation of a spring hire for the next dean.
As I stand on this new threshold, I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of serving Wellesley College and for the deep and meaningful relationships forged with students, staff, faculty, and alumnae. Together, we look to the future awaiting that which comes. Something new is indeed being born, if we but let it.