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The Dean of Chapel Reflects

The Dean of Chapel Reflects on Chapels and Chaplaincy

College chapels offer something of great value: they are thoughtful; they place an unfolding pattern liturgical prayer before all who wish to participate; they are concerned about the whole person; they are at once addressed towards God, and deeply enthusiastic about human life and community.

In my own case, the humane, intellectual, High Church witness of Merton College Chapel in Oxford in the 1990s saved my faith, when the fundamentalism I had come up to University with proved inadequate, not least in face of science. Without a doubt, the College Chapel there shaped the whole course of my faith and ministry. Corpus Chapel represented the same principles—serious about faith, scripture and service, but fun with it—when I studied theology in the College in preparation for ordination in the early 2000s. I stand as one among many for whom a College Chapel has formed me in faith for the long run.

The Chapel is there for everyone in the community, and the Dean or Chaplain is a College figure, part of the institution, with an open door and a listening ear. They are there for people of all churches, all faiths, and none.

The pattern of Morning and Evening prayer, the Eucharist, and Evensong, has carried on down the centuries, in direct fulfilment of our statutes and founders’ intentions.

Worship that is in some ways quite formal, at least for the larger services of the week, and with choral music as an integral component, helps give the Chapel community porous edges. People can relate to it in any number of different ways. We are also committed to intellectually rigorous preaching, but ideally with a light touch, deeply grounded in traditions of faith, but connected to the business of life rather than being a lecture.