Reclaiming the Chapel

© Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

The Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary is a beautiful English-style chapel, with a pipe organ from Norfolk, England. Anyone who has seen even one such chapel will recognize the Wren Chapel’s purpose in its architecture. Yet the most obvious symbol, the Cross, has been removed from the holy Table, to be brought in only when the chapel is being used for a specifically Christian service. ‘In order to make the Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths,’ explains the administration, ‘the cross has been removed from the altar area.’

© Jerry Gammon.

At such a heathen place as William and Mary is today, this is unsurprising. But what is there to be done? As the Rev. John Parker suggests,

By God’s grace, the only way fruit will be born at the college is by repentance. The Cross will be seen as the sign of Christ’s redemptive, self-sacrificial, and atoning embrace, the ‘weapon of peace’ as it is called in the Orthodox tradition, only when self-professing Christians fully devote themselves to chastity, humility, patience, and love; when our chief foci are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

There is, in fact, a very easy way for the cross to be returned to the chapel: Schedule the traditional hours of the Church in Wren Chapel daily. The method will also return the Cross to the lives of those related to the College, offering a two-fold metanoia.

Let groups of local students, faculty, staff, and alumni organize themselves into congregations of prayer. Offer the ancient daily services along with the biblical hours of prayer: the evening service (vespers), the service after supper (compline), midnight, the morning service (matins), and 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. (the first, third, sixth, and ninth hours). This holy action would bring the cross out of the sacristy for a few hours every day and would change both the hearts and the minds of all who take part in such ministrations.

I hope Protestants will take the lead in reading Morning and Evening Prayer daily during term time; Terce (3rd), Sext (6th) and None (9th), as well as Compline, might be added from Cosin once the others were well-established.


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