I'm wrote most of this while sitting under a tree on the campus of the college from which I graduated. As I sat there enjoying the bright sunny day, I was thinking about the chapel service this morning. It's reunion weekend and since the class I graduated with is back I stopped by for a couple of events including chapel. (I took a year off halfway through college and usually attend reunion with the class with which I started. But it's a *big* reunion, and I only live a couple of miles away...)
The college I attended was a fairly white bread place when I was there. There were students of color and international students but they didn't make up a very large percentage of the student body. Similarly the chapel services were decidedly Protestant.
I didn't attend very many chapel services as a student, but as a member of the college choir attendance was mandatory at a few every year. Those services had a comforting similarity to the Presbyterian and Congregationalist services I had attended (sporadically) before college. The order of service, the hymnal, the prayers all were familiar.
Partway through my college life the college hired a new chaplain who was decidedly feminist. I have fond memories of our choir director, an older man with roots in the Episcopalian church, complaining because this new chaplain was insisting that the wording of the hymns being sung have the wording changed to reflect here feminist bent. There is a certain absurdity to his annoyance given that I attended a women's college. Our director was a dear sweet man who just didn't want his beloved hymns messed with.
Things have changed quite a bit since then. The student body is decidedly more ethnically diverse and formerly marginalized communities are an integral part of the campus. The religious life of the college has changed as well. A number of years ago a new chaplain was brought in and charged with developing ways to embrace the religious diversity on the campus. The chaplain embraced this challenge with an evangelical passion. College wide chapel services now incorporate elements of a wide range of religions.
As I sat under the tree earlier today it was the sounds of the service which were running through my mind. The low ringing of the bell which is the Buddhist call to worship; the chattering of birds outside the open door, the lilt of a Hindu prayer, the blending of women's voices as they sang a round in Hebrew, the words of the Koran, and the more familiar words of the Protestant and Catholic traditions.
After the horrid attacks of September 11, 2001 the college scheduled a special all college chapel service. At a time when the unfamiliar was cause for anxiety, this service provided healing in sharing the range of religious observance. I particularly remember the end of the service when we were directed to the lawn outside the chapel. Once gathered in a circle there we shared a native American prayer. It was one more element toward bringing understanding about how our differences can enrich us.
Where the services of my college life were white bread, the services now are a lovely spicy stew and everyone who is fortunate enough to attend one is enriched.
This week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings is spicy. You can see more here. And thanks to Shelley for inspiration on this one.