All posts by Finn Campman

River of Spirit Odyssey – Day 5



Monday, May 9

Breakfast at Friendly Crossways

10:30 – Tour of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center

Lunch at café

12:55 Salaat Prayers

3:00 – Harvard Art Museum

6:00 Dinner – Harvard Square

Return to Friendly Crossways – journal, sing, sleep

I really liked the mosque we went to this morning. It was simple looking, but I thought it was a beautiful building and religion. The conversation with the students was really eye opening and wonderful. I had a conversation about our favorite books with them later. That was my favorite part of the day.


When we went to the mosque today, I found that some of my views on Islam were changed. I have always thought that hijab, on some level, represents the oppression of women, but now I understand that they d the opposite in a way. They are worn so that a woman’s personality is what matters and not her appearance.


Its as interesting to hear the students’ perspectives… At first, conversations were awkward because we didn’t really know what to talk about, but then it took off and we talked about celebrities and all the normal girl stuff, and I was like, “Wow, they are totally normal and a lot like me and my friends.”


I understand that women choose to wear head scarfs. I respect that. However, they talked about how women should wear them so they are not admired or harassed by men. This sincerely bothered me because women should not dress for men, and should not cover themselves so men won’t harass them.


If only we could put our stereotypes and labels away we could find peace and acceptance among people no matter their gender, religion or appearance. At the center of all religions is peace, and I wish that could stay in all of our minds.


I thought when the kids came in I connected best. It was like someone who was the same age, who knew about social media and the same kind of music, but had a whole different community and lifestyle. Something that felt so foreign to e now feels like some thing I could be a part of.


I also thought it was weird how when someone who isn’t Muslim commits some sort of killing, it’s just a criminal act, but when a Muslim does it, it’s considered “terrorism”. It just goes to show how manipulative the media can be.


I found that wearing the head scarf connected me more into the culture, yet I feel not participating and it being a silent service that set me farther away from understanding.


After the mosque we headed to the Harvard Art Museum which was amazing. I loved just being able to relax and enjoy the beauty and spirit of creativity.



Emma does a little busking.

River of Spirit Odyssey – Day 4

Sunday, May 8

Breakfast at Friendly Crossways

10:00 – Morning service at Emmanuel Church,

Bach Cantata BWV 43

Lunch on the street

1:00 – Common Cathedral – Brewer Fountain in Boston Common, an outreach mass specifically for the large homeless population, many people attend.

2:30 – A conversation with the Reverend Pamela Werntz of Emmanuel Church

7:00 – Dinner at Trinity Church

8:00 – Compline Service Trinity Church – Copley Plaza

Return to Friendly Crossways – journal, sing, sleep

Common Cathedral grabbed my attention and made an impact on me. I really liked that a bunch of street people joined. The things they said touched me, like talking about their background and honoring their mothers because of Mothers’ Day. This service was one of my favorites because I could see that so many people of different kinds and backgrounds could come together and become a community.


Today was amazing because I could see how everything was the same. It felt like all of the services were one giant full day service that was repeating. It was amazing, also, to see how everyone had a unique way of practicing the same thing.


Trinity Church had a very different feel from anywhere else we have been, The candles and incense really made it feel like a time of silence and thought. We did not participate in the compline service much, but it was actually better for me. I felt like it was more of a meditation and a time to look inside rather than be putting so much energy into prayers.


The smell of incense

smoke rises into the air like a cloud

the room,

almost all candle lit,

Beautiful stained glass


I am almost able to feel peoples prayers.


sitting across from and next to me.

Carefully molded cross

hanging from the ceiling.

The choir,

singing songs in unison,

getting closer and closer to God.


Religion, to me, is a way to understand the profound. It is a way to manifest this bigger force in life that we can not understand. We can make sense of the things we can’t grasp. It is present within all of us, we just use different methods to make it tangible.


What a pleasure to hear the powerful words of the homeless. So much wisdom and experience. There was a great amount of energy when we formed a circle and sang, Young and old, healthy and sick, wealthy and poor, but at that moment we were one.


The compline service was very different from everything else that we have done so far. I really enjoyed it. The fact that is was so silent was really relaxing, and I appreciated that they didn’t have us constantly standing up and sitting down.


Today is the kind of day where I feel the most grateful for the gift we have of taking this journey of discovery of something much greater than self.


Compline at Trinity Church

River of Spirit Odyssey 2016 – Day 3

Saturday, May 7 

Breakfast at Friendly Crossways – take the vans to:

10:00 – Morning Shabbat at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline

12:00 – Lunch (school purchase) and Conversation with Reb Moshe

2:00 –Thousand Buddha Temple – Quincy, Massachusetts

4:15 – Holy Trinity Orthodox CathedralMeet with Father Robert M. Arida and attend Vigil for the Resurrection.

6:30 – Dinner City Place Food Court

8:00 – Blue Man Group

Return to Friendly Crossways

Although we wrote and contemplated this extraordinarily full day, by the time we returned to Friendly Crossways there was truly only one thing anyone was capable of, sleep…

Chanting with Master Bhikku Kaizhao



Music from the service at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral

River of Spirit 2016 – Day 2

Friday, May 6

Breakfast at Friendly Crossways

10:00 – Head into Boston

Alewife to Harvard Square

12:10 – Mass at Church of Saint Paul.  Conversation with Father Mark Murphy and members of St. Paul’s Choir School

1:45 Lunch in Harvard Square

5:00 – Conversation with Rabbi Sonia Saltzman of the Temple Ohabei Shalom

5:45 – Dinner in Coolidge Corner

7:00 – Shabbat B’yachad service Temple Ohabei Shalom

Green Line “C” Kent Street Stop to Park Street to Alewife

Return to Friendly Crossways – journal, sing, sleep

Today we went to the Church of Saint Paul. It was so different from anything I’d ever done before. The boy’s choir sounded like angels, especially since they were singing above us. Something in me just melted when I first walked in and saw the gorgeous architecture.  -Marley

Today we went to Saint Paul’s Parish. It was the most beautiful church I have ever been to. The stained glass and stone were amazing, especially the carvings. Their boy’s choir was absolutely stunning. It sounded like angels. -Emeline

          Temple Ohabei Shalom

Maybe it’s just me but…

Germany, Russia, China, to Chile.

She has such a great story

of her triumphant glory

being a rebbe in a day and age.

Up on the stage

With her family

One I see as my own

My people, my word, my world

Comfort, Understanding, Tradition

Song, dance, random noise

Laughter and jokes

It is all me.

All my people.

My home.

Family. Joy.

A bat mitzvah waiting in the wings

anticipation and happiness

I am in my element.


Sitting on the steps of Temple Ohabei Shalom, thinking about what we saw and what we’re going to see, I feel a heightened sense of community in our motley crew of tweens. I think we all feel it!


The temple was really fun for me. I loved the singing, of course. The people made me feel welcome. I just LOVED the community!


Boy’s Choir of St. Pauls from midday mass





River of Spirit Odyssey 2016 – Day 1

Thursday, May 5

9:00 – Leave Hilltop

11:00 – Wat Boston Buddha Vararam (Thai Buddhist Temple)  Bedford, MA. , lesson, chant, and meditation with monk from Theravada tradition.

2:30 – Arrive at Friendly Crossways Hostel 247 Littleton County Road Harvard  Drop off luggage and get tour.

3:30 – Head into Boston

Alewife to Park Street

5:00 – Dinner – Corner Mall Food Court (Downtown Crossing)

6:00 – The Crossing – An alternative approach to liturgy.  Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Conversation with members after the service.

Park Street to Alewife

Return to Friendly Crossways – journal, sing, sleep

We have arrived – We are safe



I don’t like singing, even in a group, but I enjoyed it [at The Crossing]. The people were really nice and inviting, and I really like that they weren’t telling me to believe in this, believe in that. The vibe was just to do this because it’s fun.



I felt fully engaged and present within our time [at The Crossing]. Passing around communion was really special, and the idea of taking in a piece of the divine into yourself and then passing that on to your neighbor is great.


It made me think about how many ways we actually do a type of walking meditation. Today we spent a solid fifteen minutes in silent walking meditation with Aew at the Buddhist Temple. We also did the labyrinth at The Crossing while walking with music. And we even do a sort of walking meditation while we do our night walks in Upland. It made me think deeper about the endless ways people choose to escape their world and fall into meditation.


Hello, Sister,


Join us in our joy and our worship.

Hello, Sister,

Celebrate with us

Our thankfulness together.

Hello, Sister,

Come feel our

Sadness and our happiness

With us.


When that monk blessed us, I just couldn’t stop grinning. Like he was showering all of us with liquid happiness.


We walk the labyrinth as part of Open Space at The Crossing – a time to find your own way to connect with spirit.



Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 8

And so we say goodbye to this amazing State
and we leave in a new state
full with the textures and cries
of the rain red earth
Spanish moss and stretched waters
full of the complexity
that is us and our colors
that is us and our visions

and so worn and stretched we go
full of the longing to stay forever
to be together – to figure it all out
all the way home

Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 7

Meeting with the BAMA Kids was different. I have never been with that many kids of color in one room, or any space for that matter. While it may not have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, it sure felt like it, because in Vermont, people of color just aren’t there, so I felt like the BAMA Kids experience was truly one of a kind.


After leaving Alabama, I will have a hard time adjusting back to Vermont. I have seen so many amazing people, communities, and pieces of history. At the start of the trip, I had no idea that I would never think of the safety bubble that is Brattleboro the same way again. I just keep asking myself: How will I fit into the real world? What will I do?


I am excited to leave tomorrow, but I’m really sad to leave all of the wonderful friends that I have met. I just wish they could come see us in Vermont. I know it would be different for them!


Now what I have to think about after this whole trip is, What do I do? I am so lucky to have been given an easy life, open opportunities, and a great education, and I need to do something with it. It is hard to think what my place is in our current struggle, but I will keep thinking about it and soon I will do something to make a change, just like the foot soldiers in Birmingham, Selma, Camden, and all over the South. I can now see that children were really the ones who changed the world, and we still can now.


We met all these kids who are the same on the inside, but their color and ancestry is different. Talking with them was just like talking with one of our classmates on the first day at school: not sure where things are going, but you know they are similar to you. I wish that in Brattleboro we had more racial diversity so we could push our selves to talk about racism more in groups of different races.


As we began talking and playing with the BAMA Kids, I had an experience that I haven’t before. I have never really spent time with any people or children of color before in my life, so it was a wonderful experience to have. I hate to admit that I have made judgements or acted different around people of color. After this afternoon/evening I believe that has completely changed. Those children were so kind and loving to us.


Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 6

It was a special feeling to get to walk over the same bridge that all those marchers went over and were chased over, and see the place where the troopers first met them. I just thought about all the history and all the people who go over the bridge without ever thinking about the history.


Today we met Joanne Bland. She was the funniest and nicest person ever. We also met Amelia Boynton Robinson. She was fiery and had an energentic tone. These two people were the best people to be with. I hope that future kids will have the ability to meet these amazing women.


I saw the bridge and stood next to the bridge, but to march across after we heard stories from the foot soldiers was life-changing. Watching films and seeing images brought the story to a reality, but nothing could compare to hearing from live people right before my eyes. As we marched across that bridge, I could envision the history made 50 years ago, and I found it very interesting to hear that of course they did not know they were making history.


[Reflection on Joanne Bland]

This woman is full of fire crackers
From the tippy tops of her toes
To the strands of hair at the top of her head.
This woman is full of fire crackers
As her lips move and words spill out
The room swells larger.
This woman is full of fire crackers
By her presence everybody wants to take action.
This woman is full of fire crackers.


The speech…
Emotions racing,
Legs shaking,
Head spinning just,
But the words flow out of
My mouth with such clarity.
Cars loud
Voice louder
Legs still shaking
My mind clears out, not focusing
on how well I would do.
Great speech.
Great friends.
Legs still shaking
But in the end the feeling
of accomplishment lingers in the



Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 5

We met with Mary Lee Bendolph for whom I have the utmost respect. We really connected and talked for an hour. It was interesting because I know her life story, so I told her mine and then she started telling me hers and I said, oh, I know this, and she was impressed at how much I knew and gave me lessons on how to live life to its fullest.

Watching Reverand Pettway at the podium was great because he just spoke his mind and didn’t just read off something. The way that he spoke seemed so honest. I could definitely tell that people loved to be at that church.

I loved sitting the dock wondering what all the other kids [at Gee’s Bend] have gone through in their lives. I found most kids lived with their grandparents.

I felt sort of uncomfortable because the younger children and adults would call me ma’am or Ms. One of the littles boys came up and asked, “Excuse me ma’am? Is it okay if I eat a sandwich, or maybe a chip or two?” I understand that this could just be because he is young, but when he felt like he had to ask me if it was okay for him to eat… Made me really think back on all those hard times and how racism is still here today. I wonder if he was told to ask and call me ma’am. Every little thing has a big story behind it.

Today we started out with going to church. I used to not like church at all, but now I have a better appreciation for church. Today I loved it when we sang in front of the others in church. I also enjoyed when the four ladies were singing. I believe that being able to go there was a great opportunity. I felt kind of out of place, though.

Adding to the quilt was awesome. Those quilts have so much history and so many conversations and songs sewn into them, and I felt really honored to be able to add on to that and contribute my own stitches, singing and conversation to that quilt.

Today was the first time going to church. It was amazing! I wish I could go back next week. It was so different than I thought it was going to be. The love and hope that was there was incredible. Reverent Pettway was so excited for us being there, and all the other people made me feel loved and accepted. Singing there was so fun, having everyone join in. I smiled the whole time.

I thought that being so involved with the kids was a great opportunity for us. The little ones were so happy to be with us. For me, it was a great time to think about my relationship differences between African American kids and white kids. It’s a difficult thing to think about because I know there shouldn’t feel like there are any differences between us, but somehow I still feel myself acting differently around them. Maybe because I have never really interacted with black children before, and that’s why it felt different.

While I sat down by the dock and cooled off, a young girl came down and began to talk to a few of us. We shared stories about what we did up north and south and our sports and pastimes.