To the Editor:
Robert Inglis began his piece on this week’s Emergent Theological Conversation by describing Marquand Chapel, the Divinity School’s main gathering space, as “an old-fashioned-looking place” (“New Christian group gathers at Div. School,” 2/8). With its chandeliers, columns and New England Protestant-looking design, that certainly is a true statement. But Inglis erred in his assertion that the arrangement of the pews in a circular formation (actually a cross-shape, facing the center) was a new look to greet the visitors for the conference.
The pews were not moved around for the conference; this is the way the daily ecumenical worshipping community in Marquand Chapel has worshipped since the fall of 2002. We have several pew arrangements, including an octagon- and diamond-shape. The center-facing formation is an essential aspect of the ways in which we worship — facing each other, speaking, singing, praying together instead of staring at the backs of each others’ heads in a pew-facing-forward-toward-the-high-pulpit formation, which was the original layout of the chapel.
Inglis is correct in stating that the pew formation is a metaphor for flexibility, communal fellowship and social responsibility, which were the missions of the conference. It’s also an essential aspect of the way the Yale Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music communities have worshipped on a daily basis for nearly four years. Far from being a departure, it is very much the norm for Marquand Chapel.