Chapter 4 …

Memorial Church

Dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1932, Memorial Church honors the memory of the Harvard men who died fighting in World War I (just as Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1874 to honor those who died fighting for the Union during the Civil War).

The names of the 373 alumni who gave their lives during World War I are engraved alongside a sculpture named The Sacrifice. Since then other memorials have been established within the Church honoring alumni who later died fighting in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

To the best of my knowledge, however, the names of those sacrificed by President Lowell and other Harvard toadies over the years aren’t honored at all on campus. By the way, at least one of those young men did actually fight in World War I. But he didn’t die in the fighting after all.

He was only the victim of a Harvard witch hunt.

Morning Prayers is still held in Appleton Chapel Monday through Saturday from 8:45 to 9:00 a.m.; and there is, I believe, still a rule, routinely ignored, discouraging the holding of classes or other academic exercises at that time in order to encourage student attendance.

Alas, attendance tends to be sparse.

The service consists of music, prayer, and a brief address given by a member or friend of the University. The music is provided by the Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir, who sing a wide selection of anthems and psalms in a variety of styles. On Saturdays, the music is provided by soloists, small ensembles, or instrumentalists.

In anticipation of the Third Annual LGBTQ Conference at Harvard, which took place this past Saturday, March 5, 2016, Memorial Church featured a special week of Morning Prayer talks from February 29 through March 5 entitled The Queer Divine: Perspectives and Theologies from LGBTQ Lived Experiences.

I’m not entirely sure what that entailed, but the advertisement for these Morning Prayers indicated that Harvard Divinity School students of various religious traditions and experiences would “reflect upon life at the nexus of queer identities and the divine.”

You can find out a bit more about the first of those talks here if you wish; and feel free to consider this and my previous post as my own little contribution to the queer divine.

But wherever the nexus between queer identities and the divine may be, I suspect it’s a long way from where the founders of Harvard had in mind when they instituted Morning Prayers in 1636; the place where President Lowell conducted his inquisition in 1920; or even with how Harvard administrators ran the place for decades after Abbott Lawrence Lowell was dead and buried.

Don’t fool yourself, however. Homophobia is still alive and well at Harvard even these days.

By the way, finding a decent picture of Memorial Church wasn’t easy and I’m not entirely satisfied with the image I’ve featured above. Capturing the Church in a single image is difficult. Some pay too little regard to its breathtaking steeple; still others, taken from the west, east or north, would convey entirely different impressions.

Nor do exterior images capture the Church’s majestic interior or its organs, one of which is pictured here and here. Whatever the case, Memorial Church is indeed a memorable part of Harvard and will play a central role in tonight’s chapter and the two that follow.

As you may recall, Lane successfully defended his dissertation in last week’s chapter, an experience that apparently was less satisfying than he hoped it might be.

After spending the evening debating whether he should use his remaining time at Harvard to build a genuine friendship with Paul, he received a pair of tickets to a Red Sox game from Professor Jeffords the following morning.

Lane invited Paul to join him at the game and Paul accepted. The two had lunch at Winthrop House on the day of the game, an experience made less happy for Lane after still another unpleasant encounter with Paul’s roommate, Anderson.

Miraculously, the Red Sox continued their winning ways. But the conversation between Lane and Paul that followed the game raised some questions, at least for me. Whether they’ll be answered in this week’s chapter remains to be seen. You’ll have to read on to find out.

In any event, Chapter 4 is now up at The Annex. It’s a long one so be well fortified before taking it on. Once you are, have fun reading. As always, any comments you have on the chapter or on this and the previous post would be welcomed.


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