COVID-19 restrictions have forced Rev. Tim Kennedy and Vestry to find new and creative ways to unite the community during Chapel.
Last spring’s online Chapel was posted on Schoology each day for students to watch in their free period. This year, after reviewing feedback and through Vestry meetings, Rev. Kennedy and Vestry decided to stream a daily live Chapel for advisories to watch together as a group, learn about the Gospel, and give the community time to pause and reflect.
“One of our Founding Tenets [is] learning and community,” Rev. Kennedy said. “So we want to figure out ways that we can do that safely and…make sure that the whole community feels included even if they’re not present.”
But Rev. Kennedy and Vestry are still adjusting to this new form of Chapel.
“I had never taken a class on writing, editing and producing so [putting] together a 12 or 13 minute Chapel took a lot more than 13 minutes,” Rev. Kennedy said. “After listening to some feedback, I really wanted to move away from the prepackaged film edited version and… move to the live version. It’s not going to be slick and perfect…[however,] God isn’t looking for perfection in Chapel.”
Chapel takes place for 15 to 20 minutes every weekday. An advisory from each grade level currently sits socially-distanced in the Chapel while the remaining advisories are sent a Zoom link and watch Chapel from their assigned rooms. Every week advisories will rotate for in-person Chapel according to the advisor’s last name.
“I am thrilled to have one advisory per grade level inside All Saints Chapel,” Rev. Kennedy said. “Most of the time the technology works pretty well, so that is helpful to connect us to advisories across campus and students doing distance learning. I look forward to having more people back in All Saints Chapel and returning to some semblance of normalcy once it is safe to do so.”
Vestry is responsible for writing and reading opening and closing prayers, working slides and receiving feedback from faculty and students. They also decided to change their system of participation because the underclassmen felt like they weren’t being utilized and wanted to participate more.
“We used to have guilds which were used to separate everyone by what they wanted to do…” Vestry leader and senior Cleo Neuhoff said. “This year, we switched it into [nine worship] teams… and they’re in charge of a day in Chapel. Instead of having guilds, each team would be responsible for everything on [one] day to give more people the opportunity to have an impact on Chapel.”
The Vestry leaders—Neuhoff and seniors Genevieve Minnis and Sophia Sinacola—meet with Rev. Kennedy every week for updates and to share new ideas.
“We have meetings every week and we talk about how to best utilize everyone because there are so many people in Vestry,” Neuhoff said. “We have to think about all the little things because Chapel is online and it’s hard. We have to think about all the little questions like are we going to have acolytes or what traditions will we keep.”
Vestry, which has 60 members this year—a record, is always looking for new ways to bring excitement and interest into Chapel. Neuhoff has talked to Rev. Kennedy about a sermon idea.
“My dad and I had the idea that… once a month we interview a staff member or a parent about their faith and then have that be the sermon,” said Neuhoff. “I think the interview with Mr. Bryan went really well and you could just tell that he was really passionate about his religion. I think this sermon idea has been a good change in our reflections so we are definitely going to continue them.”
Events such as protests against racial injustice and the election have been occurring simultaneously with COVID-19 and online school. Rev. Kennedy is thinking about integrating lessons from these events.
“There’s a lot going on in the world with a lot of different points of views about what’s happening and what should be happening,” Rev. Kennedy said. “We definitely want Chapel to be a place where we can talk about that but we want to be thoughtful about thinking about this from a spiritual perspective in the Chapel during worship.”
Rev. Kennedy also hopes to bring in students, faculty and staff who are willing to speak so there is a diversity in voices.
“We are a diverse community so we want to hear from different folks, teachers and students,” Rev. Kennedy said. “What I love about the ESD Chapel is that we do have so many different voices so I’ve been asking folks to consider giving Chapel talks.”
While Kennedy and the Vestry found ways to have Chapel during online school, they are excited to have Chapel in person—even if it’s at a limited capacity..
“[When] there’s no one physically in front of you, you can’t read their body language or their smiles or their faces,” Rev. Kennedy said. “The most exciting thing about being back is the opportunity to support students in person in their learning, their Daily Worship, and their pursuit of knowledge and learning.”