Harvard University’s Memorial Church in Harvard Yard is indeed a place of grace as advertised. Getting sense of place right is a strong suit. I need only walk from the parking garage past the Curious George Store, cut across the island where International Magazines (pick your language and feel right at home or in an exotic new land) are sold at a Kiosk, before entering the gates to the yard. My first foot fall through the gate changes everything. I breath easier, the trees, the landscape, the energy, the possibility. It’s all there. Add stunning architecture, architecture that is meant to impress, and impose upon you the importance of this institute of higher learning. It succeeds. I pass John Harvard’s statue on the left as I make my way to Mem, and then I am there.
Designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbot, MemChurch was dedicated in 1932 on Armistice Day. Meant to honor the men that died in WWI, it would go on to honor those that died in WWII, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, so many conflicts. It is not felt in this church. There is serenity, calm and a sense of belonging – whether you are religious or not, whether it’s filled with voices singing and organs playing, or there is only the soft creak of the enormous wooden doors, the quiet shuffle of a visitor, taking a look, or finding a pew to sit, like me, and enjoy a few minutes of solitude. So little of my life is quiet. Why don’t we value time to think a little more?
Like most church’s, Memorial Church was designed to create a sense of awe in the eye of the beholder, to lift you up, bring you closer to God, if you are so inclined to believe. I can assure you, this space can make you believe, and Jonathan Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister at the Church, will make you glad you came. He radiates light and energy, he fills the voluminous space inspirational words, and the architecture reinforces the message.
Today it might be sleeting, raining, snowing, and seem as if spring will never arrive here in New England, but it will be bright again. MemChurch is the same message of hope. It’s open to ALL, services every Sunday in the main Sanctuary, morning prayer, weekdays in Appleton Chapel. Take a peek, see where this new found inspiration will take you.