The Rev. Matthew Ichihashi Potts, Ph.D, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, Plummmer Professor of Christian Morals, Faculty of Divinity. Photo by Stephaine Mitchell, Harvard Gazette.
When Stephanie Paulsell began her ministry with you two years ago, she told you she was accompanying you on pilgrimage. What a journey we have all been on since then. Our time away from one another now complete, this fall we return to our church and to our campus. But as Stephanie or any other expert on pilgrimage will tell you, returning can be hard.
Much of our focus this year will be in making sure we return to one another with care. This will be for practical reasons, since adhering to covid guidelines will play an important role in keeping us safe. Most of us will have to mask indoors, some of us will have to remain physically distanced, and all of us will have to bear inconvenience with patience. We’ll need to be adaptive, too, since our Sunday customs may change as the pandemic changes. But returning with care means more than wearing a mask and keeping safe distance. The majority of our students have never spent a full academic year on campus. Our church has not gathered in person for a year and a half. Each of us has wrestled with loss, fear, loneliness, stress, and illness, and we may do so again in the weeks to come. Returning with care means caring for one another as we return.
It will be our privilege as your ministers to welcome you with love this fall and to show you that we care in all the familiar ways. As ever, we will fill our church with song, not only on Sunday mornings but also in special celebrations and events throughout the term. Our 112th Annual Christmas Carol Services will be held Sunday, December 12 and on Tuesday, December 14. In mid-November we will also host a masterclass on Bach’s Cantatas with the renowned conductor Ton Koopman, who will be visiting Harvard this year as the Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar. The Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra will also hold its concert on November 7th.
We will share God’s word of love from our pulpit and in our meeting rooms, too. The Rev. Teddy Hickman-Maynard, the new Associate Dean for Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School, will share his words and wisdom as the newest member of Harvard’s faculty of divinity. The Rev. Elam Jones, a Harvard PhD student in the Study of Religion and a currently serving lieutenant in the United States Navy, will preach on Founders and Benefactors Day to reflect upon our identity as a memorial to the war dead. And the Right Reverend Carol Gallagher, the first person of indigenous American ancestry consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion, will share her perspective on the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving. These guests and other experts from the Harvard community will lead our Faith and Life forums throughout the term. And on December 12th, as you formally welcome me and my family to this church, our beloved leader the Rev. Professor Stephanie Paulsell will bless the beginning of my ministry with you in a sermon at my installation.
Though we will resume in-person worship this fall, there are many among us for whom returning to the sanctuary remains impossible because they are too ill or far-flung or frail. We are committed to ministering to those far and near, and so we are also developing plans to upgrade our audio amplification and recording system, as well as to install video recording capabilities in the sanctuary. We hope, with your support, to complete this project next summer, so we can expand the reach of our love and welcome in new and exciting ways.
Our church has been sitting empty for a year, waiting for us to fill it. Much of what we find upon our return will be familiar, our spirit of love and welcome I hope most of all. But much has also changed. These changes and the ones to come might feel challenging or stressful at times. But we are a people of transfiguration and of resurrection. In other words, we are a people of courage and of faith. My family and I feel heartened to be among you all, and blessed to accompany you on this journey into our common future.
The Rev. Matthew Ichihashi Potts, Ph.D.
Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church
Plummer Professor of Christian Morals
Faculty of Divinity