Spiritual Life at Chatham Hall, led by Chaplain Beth Barksdale, has put together a new program for the 2020-2021 school year: Campus Touchstones.
“Touchstones are outdoor spaces that call to you,” explained Barksdale. Typically, they are quiet, contemplative areas that invite prayerful meditation.
“Prayer can be thought of as a disposition of wholeness,” said Barksdale. “It is a way of centering ourselves through reflection with a movement towards intention. Our students need time away from the demands of daily life to think and ponder, to develop an intentional way of living or being.”
For Barksdale, Touchstones are integral to the spiritual wellness of students and help inspire transformational thinking.
Barksdale received her Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University (WFU) with a concentration in the Faith, Health and Ecological Well-being program. The idea of Touchstones at Chatham Hall was inspired by the pastoral habits she developed at WFU and the opportunity she sees for people of all ages to recenter themselves in nature.
“Chatham Hall is the first school to offer Touchstones and we are excited about future changes to our schedule to allow students more time to experience the awe and wonder of the natural world,” noted Barksdale. “We also introducing self-guided spiritual practices at each touchstone location.”
Barksdale has identified several touchstones for the campus community already, including St. Mary’s Courtyard, the Nature Trail, the Community Tree in front of Pruden Hall, Curtis’ Garden, and the Hilltop Garden featuring the School’s newly installed Peace Pole. In October, Spiritual Life led a “Planting Peace” event at which time a perennial flower bulb was planted in the Hilltop Garden to represent each student and staff member, and two more Peace Poles were dedicated. Eight different languages proclaiming “May Peace Prevail on Earth” are now visible in the Peace Garden and serve to welcome anyone who enters campus.
“Our students selected the languages to be displayed on the poles to represent the student body,” said Barksdale. “We were also able to use the School’s Maker Space to craft the letters with the help of Mr. Waters. We are hopeful that Planting Peace will become a school-wide annual event, as we look to enhance many of the gardens on campus. The talents of Ms. Webb, our expert gardener, and Ms. Overton, our Flower Guild sponsor, were also very helpful!”
As the weather is turning, Chakra stones were put into circulation among the School community as a Touchstone activity last week.
“Chakra stones sit in your hand and ease the weight of your mind,” said Barksdale. ‘Sometimes the weather doesn’t always permit an outdoor experience and the stones are a way to bring the outdoors inside. I hope everyone who receives one will invite balance and peace before passing it along to bring others positive energy.”