I deeply regret that the lack of ventilation in Belmont Chapel has made being there for our Chapel services impossible since COVID hit. The good news is that the School is investing in a ventilation system which we hope will be finished this spring, allowing us to get back into the space for at least a while before the Class of 2022 graduates. That said, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Reverend Talcott, Reverend Solter, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Krasinski, and members of the IT team, for making Chapel go very well here in the Class of 1945 Hall this year and go very well when we have needed to hold our services remotely.
I know that our twice-weekly Chapel services are simply part of the weekly routine for us at St. Mark's and so we do not necessarily stop and contemplate its meaning for our School. I invite you to join me in engaging in that thought for a couple of minutes. I am convinced we are a better school because of the Chapel program, and even though we are not currently participating in the Chapel program in a sacred place, we are gaining many of the special benefits nonetheless.
Here is what I especially value about our Chapel program, regardless of where it happens:
First of all, Chapel provides an opportunity for reflection. During the three minutes of silent prayer, meditation, and reflection, we do have the opportunity to just "be." That is a different three minutes than many of us have otherwise during the day, allowing for an opportunity that would not otherwise exist. Indeed, that consistent three-minute quiet period supports a habit of mind that we are getting better and better at incorporating elsewhere at St. Mark's, perhaps with participating in mindfulness activities that Mr. Corazzini organizes, or beginning a class with a few minutes of journaling.
The creation of a Chapel Talk promotes reflection because the very act of creating a speech about something important helps the speaker sharpen up their own thinking, very valuable for that person's own personal growth. The opportunity for reflection also comes from listening to Chapel Talks. These talks offer an opportunity to consider messages that a fellow student or a faculty or staff member has carefully put together as an explicit offering—a gift. The messages are, on the one hand personal and individual, and on the other hand certain themes recur, and that reinforcement helps our own reflection about what is important, here at St. Mark's and in the way we think about our life.
So, thank you to those of you who have given Chapel Talks and who will give Chapel Talks, and thank you to Reverend Talcott and Reverend Solter for helping student speakers put together their Chapel Talks. These talks are incredibly important to our community, and I know to those of you who give them.
Secondly, Chapel provides a regular structured opportunity to think about large questions: who am I?...what do I care about most?...what do I want to do be here and elsewhere?...is there a God?...what do I believe in and why? The Chapel talks encourage thinking about these larger questions, and so do the opening sentences, the hymn, the prayers, the descriptions of alums and other members of the community who have died, and the beauty of the organ postlude.
When you come back as an alum, which I hope you will do frequently, I suspect you will want to see the place we are in now, the Class of '45 Hall, because it will contain memories for you, especially if you are a musician or a singer. Perhaps the memories of this year's Chapel services will linger too. What I hope most of all is that you will have spent enough time in Belmont Chapel and will have found time in that sacred place sufficiently meaningful, so that you will make—as I did—a visit to the Chapel a part of your time when you return to campus.
Prayers at the End:
Oh Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your great mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen. (2)
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; all for your love's sake. Amen. (3)