When I showed up at my first Hear and Now meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was the first one there, perpetually early because I never know if things will run on “Harvard time”—that is, starting 7-10 minutes past real time. Slowly, the rest of my group trickled in, some I had met before and some I had not. We started out hesitantly, not knowing exactly what to do, but eventually we got into the flow, talking about our days, our lives, and our experiences with religion and spirituality. Before we knew it, the hour had passed and it was time to part.
Hear and Now is a program coordinated by Religious and Spiritual Life in which small groups get together once a week to talk and listen to one another. We are encouraged to pick topics and facilitators in advance of each meeting in order to make the most of our time each week, and to give everyone a chance to think about what they might want to discuss at each meeting.
The formats of the meetings are completely up to the participants. Though someone from RSL attends the very beginning of the first meeting, the rest of the time is managed by the group itself, allowing you to discuss the things you want in the ways that you want. It is a safe space—a sacred space, almost—with everyone listening at least as much as they are talking. Though I didn’t know what to expect that first meeting, I now look forward to my Hear and Now meetings as a space to center and calm myself, to step away from schoolwork and meetings and all stresses and just be, just talk, just listen. It is a great way to get to know a few fellow classmates in a way that isn’t possible through classes or attending events together, and you really feel connected to those in your group.
One week, a group member was going to be out of town and suggested we meet without her, or perhaps skip that week entirely. We all felt that neither of these were good ideas—we wanted to hold the meeting, because it is such a wonderful space in our week, but we also didn’t want to hold it without her. Each of the 5 of us brings something unique to the meeting, and being without one member would make it a different experience.
In the end, we decided to hold the meeting at a different time that everyone could attend. And since we had decided to talk about food and faith, which had come up many times in our various meetings, we decided that this meeting should be a dessert party. So we gathered on a Monday evening, everyone taking time to step out of their busy days and lives into this special space. We gathered in a member’s apartment, eating cake, dates, fruit, and yogurt, drinking tea and wine. We talked about the Eucharist and laws of kashrut, and instances in which food had factored into our spiritual lives. And afterwards, we each went our separate ways, content and fulfilled by the food and fellowship we had shared.