This Week: Feb. 13 - 19
- Incomplete work from the fall term is due to instructors on February 16.
- University Founder’s Day Convocation is on February 16.
- The last day to drop classes (with permission) is February 22.
How does worship in a divinity school context contribute to the theological education of students?
What practical and theological relationships are there between varied worship traditions and spiritualities?
These questions emerged in connection with what has become Project Chapel at the School of Divinity. Last December, I collaborated with some colleagues to write a grant proposal to the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. We gave the proposal the title “One Body, Many Gifts.” Our stated project aim was to engage the “liturgical diversity of our school in order to model worship renewal for our students.” A second stated aim was to encourage our community to experience the services that would emerge from this project as “an expansion of community worship that contributes to communal and personal spiritual formation” and as a way to “enhance educational and theological formation in partnership with our curriculum.”
We formed a planning team in the fall and began our imaginative work. The outcome of our imagining, brainstorming, and planning is Project Chapel. Project Chapel is a series of worship events scheduled throughout the spring 2012 semester.
This week’s Project Chapel event carries the title “The Best Valentine’s Day Ever.” Whether the worship moment can live up to such an ambitious title remains to be seen. What we intend to do is gather on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at 8:30am (in the narthex of Wait Chapel) for a time of morning prayer followed by what we have playfully been calling “Valentine’s Caroling.”
Valentine’s Day is heralded in the marketplace as a day of romance. Some scholars trace the day’s romantic emphasis in part to a Roman festival called Lupercalia and in part to Christian history and tradition. Christian tradition links the day to a person, St. Valentine, or perhaps, more correctly to several persons with the name “Valentine” whose lives were deemed saintly and whose stories were told and re-told through the centuries. One Valentine, so the story goes, was martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Another Valentine is believed to have been a priest who performed secret marriages by candlelight; single men in third-century Rome could avoid the army by marrying. This Valentine, while imprisoned for his secret marital “knot-tying,” received many notes and flowers from supporters; he was executed (again, so the story goes) on February 14. February 14 was later proclaimed a holy day. In the medieval era, Valentine became someone to pray to in times of drought or food scarcities. As one scholar writes, the “shift from martyr to matchmaker happened in the late fourteenth century” (Aveni, The Book of the Year, 2003). Some credit John Donne with initiating present-day customs of sending cards and flowers to declare one’s love; Donne wrote a marriage song for Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Frederick V on St. Valentine’s Day in 1632. Valentine’s Day was reinvented in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, in part through the marketing efforts of booksellers and printers. Today, Valentine’s Day provides a significant payday for the marketplace. In 2001, according to one set of statistics, eleven million people made Valentine’s purchases online; countless others made purchases in drugstores, florists, groceries, and other stores.
Project Chapel’s Valentine’s Day worship event celebrates divine love and human relationships by “caroling,” in other words by showing gratitude to people on our campus who daily offer a smile, an encouraging word in the hallway, a cup of coffee, a sandwich, a moment of kindness in the midst of busy lives. Our morning prayer on Valentine’s Day (don’t forget—8:30am in the Wait Chapel narthex) will begin in traditional “morning prayer” fashion and will conclude as we go out singing to various places on campus. We will take along with us flowers and candy. The symbolism is powerful; prayer “in church” becomes prayer “in the world.” The benediction becomes embodied pilgrimage outside the church doors.
St. Valentine’s Day is an intriguing part of Christian and liturgical history. Churches throughout the years have observed the day in varied ways. Project Chapel’s “Best Valentine’s Day Ever” event invites the community to consider theological and spiritual dimensions of this saintly day as we go out the doors of the chapel “singing a prayer of gratitude” to people on our campus.
By the way—wear red, bring some flowers if you have some handy, and be ready to sing “we just called to say we love you.”
Grace and peace,
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs