Working for Student Life as a Graduate Assistant has a lot of perks. My office is right near the candy bowl and upstairs from the coffee and tea room; I also get to be one of the first ones to know about upcoming programs. However, my favorite part of working for the Office of Student Life is helping to plan and attending Community Tea every Tuesday at 4pm. Community Tea is a 30-year-old tradition. Each week a different office or organization hosts, and as part of my job I get to work with them to plan their tea.
As much as I like planning Community Tea, the behind the scenes stuff isn’t what I want to write about; instead, I want to talk about what it’s like to actually attend tea. Tea is my favorite part of the week because it is a time set apart for us to be formally informal. It’s a formal event, but with no structure or agenda. As students, we can move away from the divinity school buzzwords and chat about life—about plans for the upcoming weekend or what happened this past one or about the latest episode of some TV show. For me, it’s a chance to reconnect with friends that I don’t get to see every week due to busy class schedules. Tea provides me a space to forget, even if it’s for just a few moments, the amount of work that I still need to do or that paper I still have to write. And it is in these moments that I truly appreciate tea: it gives me a blocked-in time to de-stress every week.
For others in this community, this time of fellowship and relaxing might happen at another organization meeting. It might happen in their house of religious worship. But for me, this time of relaxation occurs every Tuesday at 4pm. In this hour and a half block, I am able to relax, to not stress about school or work, and to just enjoy friendship and food with the wonderful people at HDS. Tea is my favorite part of the HDS week. My friends will joke that it’s because of the free food that I get at the event, but it’s more than just that—it’s the people that make this community what it is, and community tea is a great chance to spend time and gather over a meal with those people.