Like every other building on campus, the Chapel of the Resurrection and the activities it hosts have undergone significant reworking in order to comply with best practices to support the health and safety of the Valparaiso University community. Some of these changes have brought real losses: only four people can sing at one time so there’s no congregational singing, wind instruments can’t be played in the Chapel and currently, attendance at any worship services is capped at 100. You can read a description of all of the steps we’ve taken here. These changes would be painful except that they are what must be done if we are to serve in love.
And they are not without their unforeseen blessings. I write to encourage you to take advantage of this moment.
First, like lots of other places, the seating in the Chapel has been reordered. All of the chairs face east, toward the monumental Munderloh windows of magnificent stained glass, in rows that are separated from one another by a distance of six feet. Further, we are asking that you not sit closer than three chairs away from each other, unless you’re already part of the same friend or family unit. The result is that when you arrive for Morning Prayer at 9:50 on any Monday through Thursday (Friday Morning Prayer is outdoors), you sit by yourself at a distance that makes chatting with one’s neighbors difficult. (I find that the face masks make it nearly impossible.)
Then, because of the restrictions on singing, the orders of service that the Morning Prayer staff of musicians and writers are presenting place us in an atypically passive posture. Aside from a few spoken responses at the beginning and the end, there’s not much to do except be there and take it all in — the music, the readings, the prayers. We’re not even standing up and sitting down much!
If your spirituality is most often expressed by talking and singing, it’s a bit of a jolt at first.
And then, it’s beautiful.
Thursdays are my favorite. Thursday Morning Prayer was always quiet. Now there are long moments of silence. There we are, in a warm room with quiet all around and nothing to do but gaze at the light coming through the windows.
We’re all praying for a return to a more normal time when singing isn’t considered dangerous. When we do, I, for one, am hoping that we’ll not completely lose hold of the quiet simplicity that is Morning Prayer right now.
In the meantime, we’ve got this moment where for 20 minutes, you can be in a beautiful room where nothing is expected of you but your silence. I encourage you not to miss it.
Sept. 2, 2020
Photo credit: Daniel Asselstine