Alabama Calling

It’s no surprise that a group of Williams students spent their spring break in Tuscaloosa, Ala., helping to rebuild homes in the wake of devastating tornadoes that rolled through the city the previous April. What made this trip different—perhaps unique—is that the students also spent their time engaged in deeply personal conversations about faith.

Williams’ four chaplains, whose own faiths span the Abrahamic traditions, came up with the idea last fall, soon after Bilal Ansari, the college’s first Muslim chaplain, joined their team. They’d all served communities, including prison inmates and Calcutta’s homeless, and all saw a shared service project at Williams as a powerful opportunity for interfaith dialogue. “By sharing spiritual traditions,” College Chaplain Rick Spalding said before the trip, “we hope to better understand each other, appreciate other religious teachings, and deepen our most personal commitments as citizens in a fragile, multifaceted world.”

For photo slideshow click on image above.

Learn more about their trip through the short videos below and in the July Williams Alumni Review (you can also read the text-only version of the article.)

Construction clips: hammers, nails, saws, and an impromptu crowbar concert by Muslim chaplain Bilal Ansari

Jewish Chaplain Bob Scherr on what the tornado did to the Neros’ house…and what Williams students learned by building them a new one

Sam Jeong ’14 and Phoebe Gould ’13 on coming at this from Korean Presbyterian and American Lutheran traditions

Sarah Gottesman ’14 on how her fellow students opened up

Khan Shairani ’15 on how different faiths lead to the same good work

Laura Donnelly ’13: “exhausting and exhilarating!”

Chaplain Bob Scherr leads the crew in a round of “Shabbat Shalom” with Springstreeter Su-Gi Min ’13 hitting the back beat