the better future is one we build together

Connect with your spiritual side. Learn about religions. Share a plate of pasta. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Office of Spiritual Engagement is devoted to bringing our community together, regardless of our individual beliefs or views. Our staff will support you throughout your college career, however you may need it.

 

On the Edge of a Lake
St, John's Chapel

At the Heart of Campus

St. John's Chapel

St. John's Chapel, just a stone’s throw away from Seneca Lake on South Main Street, provides a historic and picturesque setting for prayer and gathering.

Hosting both Roman Catholic and Episcopal services, the chapel also serves as the setting for concerts, discussions and traditional HWS events like Charter Day and Baccalaureate. Additional religious services, including but not limited to Baha'i, Baptist, Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist and Presbyterian are available in the local community.

Come together to bake cookies while discussing Christian scripture at the Light House, attend Muslim Jumu’ah Prayers on Fridays, enjoy some classical music during Music, Meditation and Munchies, take time for a meditative walk at the HWS Labyrinth, or dance the night away at Bart Mitzvah. Try your hand at preparing a common meal of delicious food and meet friends on Pasta Night in the Chaplain’s home. The Office of Spiritual Engagement provides a multitude of opportunities for you to explore spirituality and connect with community in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

 

 

Jewish Life

Explore Judaism, celebrate Jewish traditions or take courses in Holocaust Studies. Whatever your beliefs, you’re always welcome at the Abbe Center for Jewish Life.

 

Muslim Life Prayer Space

The Muslim Life Center provides a space that enriches the religious and cultural diversity on campus and a place to pray that is easy for students to access. With two wudu stations for ablutions as well as a separate prayer room, students can access the space for personal prayer 24 hours a day. The space also serves as a small meeting space for the Muslim Student Association. Email Dean of Spiritual Engagement Nita Byrd at byrd@hws.edu if you desire to have your OneCard activated to give you access to the space. The Center is centrally located on the first floor of Medbery Hall.

muslim student association steering committee meeting 

Please email the co-chairs of the Muslim Student Steering Committee Mohammad Yassin or Malak Fadlou-Allah or the Dean for Spiritual Engagement for more information. 

 

Labyrinth

Labyrinths have long been used in spiritual practices throughout cultures and religions around the world, connecting mind, body and spirit. Because of its presence in many traditions and cultures, the labyrinth fits well with the inclusive culture HWS seeks to build and the multifaith emphasis of the Office of Spiritual Engagement.

Through donations, HWS created a memorial labyrinth south of the Richard S. Perkin Observatory off Kings Lane nears the Colleges’ arts campus.

Students performed the majority of construction and will perform minimal maintenance work throughout the labyrinth’s lifetime.

Who We Are

At Hobart and William Smith, we believe that the life of the spirit and the life of the mind need not be separate or mutually exclusive, but in fact may be profoundly interrelated and rewarding.

The Office for Spiritual Engagement works to promote engagement with that interrelationship through services, programming and spiritual support that provide hospitality and advocacy for students of all religions and cultures.

Nita Byrd
Nita Byrd

Chaplain and Dean for Spiritual Engagement
byrd@hws.edu
(315) 781-3670

The Rev. Nita C. Johnson Byrd joined the Colleges as the Dean of Spiritual Engagement and Chaplain of the Colleges in 2019. Through community building and a focus on the importance of relationships, she extends hospitality to students as they explore how their personal values and understanding of spirituality inform what it means to be a member of the campus community. She is available for personal conversation, hosting group events in her home, and exploring how students can come together for new ways to engage with one another.

Rev. Byrd serves as the advisor of the Light House Christian Theme House and the Muslim Theme House, and provides support for the Muslim Student Association. She hosted “Tea and Stories with the Chaplain,” has led mindful eating programs for the Mindfulness Club, and is available to many other student groups who wish to host discussions or explore new ways to be in community. 

As an active member of the Association of Episcopal Colleges (AEC) and the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC), Byrd is interested in the global diversity of chaplaincy in higher education. She participated in the planning committee for an “Ethics and Social Media Conference” where undergraduates participated in seminars at Vanderbilt University; and represented Saint Augustine’s University at the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion Triennial in Seoul, South Korea, and in Chennai, India.

Rev. Byrd is a graduate of Duke Divinity school, where she participated in the Canterbury Scholars Program at Canterbury Cathedral, England. Following graduation she was ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Prior to entering ordained ministry, Byrd attended North Carolina State University for her B.S. EE and M.S. ECE degrees. She lives with her husband, and two cats and looks forward to meeting members of the HWS community. 

 
MaryAnn Hamilton
MaryAnn Hamilton

Colleges Organist in Residence
hamilton@hws.edu
(315) 781-3671

Maryann Hamilton was appointed chapel organist (now Colleges organist in residence) in 2000, upon the completion of her doctor of musical arts degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. At Eastman, her principal teacher was David Higgs and she also studied improvisation with Gerre Hancock. Previously, she earned a master of sacred music degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and studied with John Weaver. She plays for weekly services in St. John’s Chapel, Baccalaureate, Commencement (carillon), Easter Vigil and other events when appropriate. In December 2001, she inaugurated the monthly organ series called Music, Meditation and Munchies, which offers an organ program during the noon hour on the first Wednesday of the month when classes are in session. Each program features music played by Dr. Hamilton and often includes other musicians in the community. Spoken meditation or poetry complements the music each month and is offered by members of the HWS and greater Geneva community. Each program concludes with dessert or other munchie. In addition, MaryAnn is the parish musician at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Geneva, where she plays for Sunday services, directs the adult mixed choir, and accompanies the junior and denior (high school) choirs.