By the Rev. Dr. Lucy Forster-Smith
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As we round the bend from winter to spring, Memorial Church’s program is as vibrant as ever! We look forward to welcoming you to a robust, engaged Spring Term 2016.
With a new year, whether the turn from 2015 to 2016 or the move from Fall to Spring Term, there is always a tendency to take stock, to consider our accomplishments, and to engage afresh what lies ahead. Our Fall Term brought a range of remarkable preachers, the wonderful contribution of our Harvard University Choir and seminarians who led us with depth and joy. Our President Faust launched daily Morning Prayers with a stunning talk on the importance of diversity. In some ways her clarion call became evident in the wonderful range of topics explored by our subsequent Morning Prayers speakers. Students from the College, Graduate, and Professional Schools, faculty and staff, and friends of this church brought diverse perspectives and personal reflections on the meaning and purpose of life’s challenges. Candor coupled with grace was a hallmark of the Fall Term.
Spring Term brings a marvelous slate of preachers and excellent Faith & Life Forum speakers. We welcome Presidents Craig Barnes (Princeton Theological Seminary) and John Wilson (Morehouse College), Wake Forest School of Divinity Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching, Gail R. O’Day, and Yolanda Pierce, Associate Professor of African American Religion and Director of the Black Church Studies Department at Princeton Theological Seminary. Memorial Church clergy and other preachers will fill out the schedule.
With Lent and Holy Week, the Memorial Church brings opportunities for worship, fellowship, and study. We launch the Lenten journey with our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper on February 9, leading us to our noontime Ash Wednesday Service on February 10. I will be offering a Lenten Study Series using Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Altars in the World, which will meet four Tuesday evenings, beginning February 16. We will continue our tradition of having our seminarians lead us through the Seven Last Words of Christ on Good Friday and Pusey Minister & Plummer Professor Jonathan L. Walton will preach at our Easter Day services.
The Memorial Church music program, led by Gund University Organist and Choirmaster Edward Jones, blesses us with daily musical offerings as well as several special opportunities. This Term’s program includes monthly Compline Services, and two Evensong services, one of which (February 7) will feature guest conductor Dr. Barry Rose, former Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. And you will want to mark your calendar for the Harvard University Choir’s Spring Concert, which will feature Bach’s Magnificat and Ascension Oratorio with instrumental accompaniment by the Harvard Baroque Chamber Orchestra. The music program also features four organ recitals with remarkably talented regionally acclaimed organists. Please consult the schedule for details.
We are thrilled to announce that our William Belden Noble Lecturer this year is American Author and Pulitzer Prize winning Novelist Marilynne Robinson. Robinson is author of Gilead, Home, Housekeeping, Lila and other novels as well as collections of essays. Her writing, which is strongly imprinted by a close reading of Reformer John Calvin, engages theology in public life. In a recent interview with President Barack Obama, Ms. Robinson responded to a question about disagreements and suspicion among religious people, particularly Christians. Ms. Robinson replied, “…Christianity is profoundly counterintuitive—‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’—which I think properly understood means your neighbor is as worthy of love as you are, not that you’re actually going to be capable of this sort of superhuman feat. But you’re supposed to run against the grain. It’s supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be a challenge.” Leading up to the Noble Lecture on April 4, we will offer a series of presentations highlighting the work of Ms. Robinson.
The programmatic work of Memorial Church would not be possible without an excellent, committed, and motivated staff. In Fall Term we welcomed Charles Anderson, Director of Finance and Operations. He picked up the excellent work of Nancy Granert and has worked with a team of colleagues as we are excitedly preparing for a renovation of the church that will attend to long-deferred structural upkeep and building maintenance, the installation of an HVAC system, and an update of the lower level. More details on this are forthcoming. As we welcomed Charles we also have been in a transition in our Communications Office. Justin Mullane, Director of Communications, left our staff at the end of 2015. Adrienne Yapo is assuming her new role in the lead communications position and a new staff colleague in that department will join her in Spring Term. We thank Justin for his years of service to Memorial Church and wish him Godspeed in his new endeavors.
I close with reflections on the work of this church at this time in our history. The core of Memorial Church’s mission is our outreach and care of Harvard students. We not only give support but also receive the abundant contributions of students. Whether hosting student events such as the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper or grief support groups, marveling at the genius of our choir members, responding to students who have lost a friend or family member, listening to our Student Advisory Board talking about their big questions and life dreams, or standing with students at a vigil on the church’s Porch as we grieve the loss of those on our planet, this work contributes to the well-being of Harvard. And I believe, by extension, it contributes to the well being of our world. Supporting students to be courageous global citizens and caring Harvard community members is our go-to. Doing this with deep respect for the range of religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions that populated this University is key. And carrying this out with the strong, life-giving call to be a space of grace, of holy hospitality in Harvard Yard, is our core mission. We count it a grand and high calling.
Lucy A. Forster-Smith
Sedgwick Chaplain to the University & Senior Minister in the Memorial Church