Sweet Spirits Gather for Bonding, Building

| August 17, 2007

Members of the Sweet Spirits, a service organization that works out of the Sweet Briar College chaplain’s office, returned to campus early this week to prepare for the 2007-08 academic year.

(From left) Chaplain Adam White, Clara Carson ’08, Jessica Gregg ’09 and Sarah Hall ’09 strike a pose at a Habitat build this week in Amherst. White later reported that the students were “really adept” at hanging vinyl siding. All photos by Pat Richeson.

Nine of the 11 members arrived on Sunday, Aug. 12, for a three-day retreat. Activities included a ropes course in Charlottesville, working on a local Habitat for Humanity House, team training sessions, and sharing and worship time.

“The purpose of [the retreat] is to help them begin to become a team and work as a team,” Chaplain Adam White said. “The main emphasis is to take this group of students who may or may not know each other and kind of knit them into a community to prepare them for their work.”

Their work includes planning annual events, such as the Unsung Heroes Banquet, Gospel Fest and the Religious Life Fair, as well as leading ecumenical services and the weekly Torah study.

Members also maintain the interfaith prayer room, located in the College’s Memorial Chapel. The room is stocked with a variety of literature and includes a “prayer mural,” on which students can write prayers.

On Sunday afternoon, the group traveled to Poplar Ridge, an experiential learning center at the University of Virginia. There, they embarked on a series of physical and analytical activities aimed at building trust and promoting teamwork.

“The assessment from the facilitator was that we did really well and we’re really good at problem solving,” White said. “I think, all in all, it was great experience because it showed us that we could come together as a team and make a plan to solve a problem, and that we could effectively listen to one another.

“And that the students could not only lead but also follow leadership. That’s a really good feature for any leader, to also be a follower.”

(Top, from left) White, Madeline Davis ’10 and Carson hang siding as (bottom, from left) Stephanie Nance ’09 and Hall secure the ladders.

On Monday morning, the Sweet Spirits headed to Majestic Hills Subdivision in Amherst, where they worked with a crew from Habitat for Humanity. It was a “clash of cultures,” White said, with the young women working alongside seasoned Habitat volunteers.

“The build was great,” White said. “The students are really adept at installing vinyl siding. Who would have known? So much so that we thought doing some construction work might be a good fundraiser for Sweet Spirits.

“I think it was empowering and really gave them a sense of accomplishment.”

According to the “Sweet Spirits Fact Sheet,” Sweet Spirits are a “community of students who serve as a student leadership team to promote spiritual values and plan campus spirituality programs.”

All upperclasswomen in good academic standing are eligible to apply, and students from all faith backgrounds are welcome. The year’s ranks include Jewish, Catholic and Protestant students, liberals and evangelicals.

White, an ordained Methodist minister, said part of this week’s training centered on how Sweet Spirits can promote “spirituality” without pushing a particular brand of religion.

White and the Sweet Spirits take a break from building to pose for a photo.

“We [focused] on conversation around readings, and one of the issues we address[ed] is understanding the difference between spirituality in general and religious doctrine in particular,” he said.

“In other words, Sweet Spirits isn’t really about teaching any particular religious doctrine but drawing attention to spiritual life as an important part of the human experience.”

The Sweet Spirits for the 2007-08 academic year are Clara Carson’08, Kassie Caola ’07, Madeline Davis ’10, Jessica Gregg ’09, Sarah Hall ’09, Jennica Harris ’08, Kristen Johnson ’09, Ginny Lightfoot ’09, Stephanie Nance ’09, Michelle Sanchez ’08 and Rachel Sullivan ’09.

— Suzanne Ramsey

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