Morning Prayers took on a special resonance Wednesday as members of the Harvard community joined together for a brief service of reflection and song in Memorial Church for the first time in 18 months.
The signs of change necessitated by the pandemic and the precautions Harvard is taking to ensure the safety of all those returning to campus were everywhere. The ceremony, which typically takes place in the smaller Appleton Chapel, was held instead in the main body of the church, enabling attendees to socially distance. Red ropes cordoned off every other row of pews, and visitors were asked to stop before entering to attest to their health, agree to wear a mask, and keep 6 feet apart from others.
But the message of community and togetherness, a common refrain during one of the University’s time-honored weekday traditions during the school year, remained the same. Harvard President Larry Bacow, who delivered the morning’s remarks, welcomed Matthew Ichihashi Potts, the newly appointed Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, and members of the Harvard community to the in-person service, telling them it was an occasion he had been “looking forward to for some time now.”
“The past 18 months have given me ample time to think about our community,” said Bacow. “In the early days of the pandemic, I actually worried that being apart would erode our care and concern for each other. In fact, nothing could have been farther from the truth. Seeing how we pulled together as individuals, as a community — all over the country and all over the world — to support each other, to support ourselves, to support our families, has really given me great hope for the future.”
Bacow noted how alumni helped secure personal protective equipment for first responders; individuals donated to the University’s pandemic relief fund that provided emergency financial assistance to members of the Harvard community; and “belts were tightened throughout the University so that we could ensure that we could keep literally everybody at Harvard employed.”