Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About SMUS Chapel (Part 1)

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Chapel provides a platform for asking ourselves great questions about life. Over the years, I’ve found that students and parents sometimes have questions about Chapel itself.

What follows are some of the standard questions and answers about Chapel at SMUS. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll continue to answer more questions about Chapel. If there are any questions you’d like answered, please email them to me or reply below.

Understanding Chapel

What do we mean when we say ‘Chapel’?

Several things. First, ‘Chapel’ names a physical building on the Richmond Road campus. Second, ‘Chapel’ refers to weekly community gatherings held on both the Richmond Road and Victoria Avenue campuses. Third, ‘Chapel’ captures a wider program focused on exploring values, identity, and meaning.

Why does the school have a Chapel building?

After decades of marching down to St. Luke Anglican Church for Chapel on Sunday, students at the school more than 50 years ago teamed up with a couple of teachers to promote the idea of erecting their own gathering place. Built largely by teenage hands during the early 1960s, the Chapel testifies to the sheer will of the student body.

Does the connection to St. Luke’s mean that the SMUS Chapel is part of the Anglican Church?

No. Neither SMUS nor the Chapel has ever been a formal part of the local diocese. Clergy associated with the school have been members of the denomination, but that’s a different matter. The school’s Chapel is completely independent of any religious organization.

Is SMUS Chapel a religious gathering?

No. Although overtly religious in the past, Chapel no longer promotes a particular doctrine or tradition. The only aberration to this statement is the continued presence of a few Christian hymns, shared on occasion. We sing them out of respect for our heritage and because the music is beautiful.

Why does the school have a reverend?

Tradition. There was a time when Chapel strongly reflected Anglican practice, so it was led by an Anglican priest. Today, Chapel reflects the diverse backgrounds of our current students. It just so happens that I’m ordained in the United Church, but there’s no guarantee that the next Chaplain will be a member of the clergy.

So what does the current Chaplain do?

Advocacy for our communal values weaves through all of my work. Along with the speaking and storytelling associated with Chapel, I’m often invited to take a life coach role with students and staff. Because of my previous work as a management consultant with a background in facilitation and mediation, I’m also brought in to process explorations and challenging conversations. Of course, the laundry list of roles traditionally associated with being a Chaplain (pastoral care, weddings, funerals, event prayers, etc.) are all part of my portfolio, bringing me into contact with students, staff, parents, and alumni. Perhaps most importantly, I’m responsible for providing a supportive platform for students when they present their own ideas and experiences through Chapel.

Why does SMUS have Chapel?

If Chapel didn’t exist at the school, we would need to invent it. Every community that strives to be intentional in its work requires a time and place to gather as a whole. Especially in the context of cultural, economic, and geographical diversity, we need regular reminders of our common aspirations and foibles, along with the values that hold us together. Each time we give these ideas voice through a wisdom story, a nuanced question, or a student reflection, we further strengthen our ability to discover our individual and collective promise – which is exactly what Chapel is about.

In Part 2 of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About SMUS Chapel, I’ll answer questions about why we do certain things during Chapel gatherings. Again, if you have any questions about SMUS Chapel, please email me or reply below.

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