Bates Multifaith Chaplaincy offers a Chance to {Pause} each Week

Russian literary critic and philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin once said: “In stillness there is no noise; but in silence there is the voice that does not speak.”

The Bates Multifaith Chaplaincy’s weekly nondenominational service, {Pause}, creates a space for the silence to speak. I’ve been a student coordinator of {Pause} since 2009.

{Pause} takes place at 9 p.m. every Wednesday during the academic year. In the same sense that a carefully placed breath can make a saxophone solo into a great saxophone solo, the Chaplaincy believes that taking time to pause, contemplate and reflect on our busy lives makes them that much fuller.

The theme for the Dec. 8 {PAUSE} was “war and peace.” This brief video by Phyllis Graber Jensen includes songs peformed by Amna Ilyas ’13 of Faisalabad, Pakistan, and poetry read by Erica Long ’12 of Augusta, Maine.

“Because so much of our day is goal-oriented, [we need] time to just let our thoughts wander and see what moves us in the moment,” says Associate Multifaith Chaplain Emily Wright-Magoon. “Sometimes it is the first time all day that we are able to check in with ourselves.”

Although creating a space for silence and contemplation is the reason for the weekly program, it is also a venue for Bates musicians, dancers and poets. From students who have never performed in front of their peers before, to a cappella groups accustomed to standing-room-only shows, {Pause} is known for its variety.

Multifaith Chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace says the only qualification for members of the Bates community to perform is “a desire to make an offering and some sense of what {Pause} is all about. And if the latter is lacking we’ll sure introduce them to what it’s all about.”

The Chaplaincy has offered similar programs off and on throughout the decade. Blaine-Wallace and Wright-Magoon made a commitment at the beginning of the 2009-2010 academic year to continue the program every week for a year.

As the year progressed, changes were made to reflect the needs of the community. A weekly theme was established to reflect the feelings on campus and the work of the performers. When Blaine-Wallace and Wright-Magoon realized that attendees might want to reflect on their experiences after each service, they added a recessional in the Chapel lobby with chai and cookies.

Most recently, attendees have been invited to contribute a word or short phrase during the last moment of the service.

Along with the silence are other ingredients in a {Pause} service that remain constant. The Chapel is lit with candles, the lights dimmed. The service always begins and ends with the ringing of a large glass singing bowl.

During fall 2011, {Pause} reached new audiences with themes that reflected big ideas on the minds of students. One week featured a dance performance advocating against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

And after the chalking vandalism incidents during Coming-Out Week, the Chaplaincy asked Bates OUTfront to provide poems and performances to rally support on campus. It was the most highly attended {Pause} to date.

by Erica Long ’12