“I’ve never been a flashy person,” said Spiritual Life League leader Libby Murphy '21. “But I love talking about the Spiritual Life League and what we do.”
Murphy has overseen a transformation in the League from simply her and Chaplain Barksdale as the planning committee last year to a 10-member committee in 2020-2021. The group works on event planning, Chapel service planning, strategic planning for the years ahead and brainstorming ways to engage students and faculty.
“In previous years, we didn’t have a lot of student participation,” noted Murphy. “It often felt like the same four or five people involved week after week. This year we have thirty people who have served as a liturgical reader or as an Acolyte, and we have reinstituted the St. Mary’s Altar Guild and started a Bread Making and Flower Guild. Though we have not been able to bake bread yet for communion, we are excited about making it for our Last Night Chapel service next week. Our students and faculty who have served on our Flower Guild have really helped to beautify our Chapel, adding fresh cut flowers they have arranged with each service in mind. We are especially thankful for Ms. Overton and Ms. Webb.”
The Easter Egg Hunt was one of the League’s biggest projects, as was the Peace Garden, a new contemplative space dedicated at the beginning of the year. Every student on campus planted a bulb for the “Planting Peace” event, and Spiritual Life worked with Mr. Waters and the MakerSpace to create peace poles for the garden - eight in total in different languages. “Mission Valentine,” an initiative in which students created and delivered Valentine’s Day cards to local Chatham residents was also new this year.
“Mission: Valentine was very important to me because Mother Becky had talked about how many of her single, older parishioners have been so lonely during the COVID lockdown,” said Murphy. “It was awesome for us, as students, to be able to give back to our community with cards we made.”
For Murphy, service is a way of life. She spent her childhood watching her father engage in community service and knew that being involved at Chatham Hall would be important to her. Chaplain Barksdale still recalls her interview with Murphy when she expressed interest in serving as the League’s president.
“She had a clear vision of how to improve and expand Spiritual Life encouraging different faiths while still recognizing our Episcopal heritage,” said Barksdale. “She felt like we could do more to claim our values, norms, and practices and embody these inside and outside of the School. Libby has really turned our program around and has helped Chatham Hall live out our identity. Her leadership has encouraged and inspired our students to get involved and to make a difference. I am grateful for Libby’s hard work, commitment, and dedication and have loved working with her this year.”
While Murphy will be headed to Sewanee: The University of the South next year, she hopes that the energy of this year’s Spiritual Life League will continue and serve as a place for all Chatham Hall students to find meaning and purpose. An annual Easter Egg Hunt, an expansion of Mission: Valentine to include outreach at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, and a growth of the School’s fledgling relationship with The Haven of the Dan River are all developments she would like to see unfold. As for Murphy herself, she has already been in touch with Sewanee about joining their Spiritual Life activities.
“Keep an open mind,” she advises those considering joining the League. “Spiritual Life doesn’t have to be a religion. It can be meditation or self-care or just inner reflection. It can be about helping people and really understanding the dynamics of your surroundings. And it’s a really great way to make friends and find your passion, because it involves so many aspects of our community. It can include weekend activities, community service projects, community outreach, there are just so many ways you can find something you are passionate about through Spiritual Life. And Chaplain Barksdale is amazing, I wouldn’t be here without her not only as my advisor but also as our chaplain.”