Enduring Harvard tradition adjusts to new class schedule

Morning prayers will start 15 minutes earlier to allow, in part, the students in the choir to get to classes on time. Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications

2 min read

Morning Prayers will start 15 minutes early on Oct. 1, marking the beginning of a new schedule for a piece of enduring Harvard tradition that takes place in Memorial Church’s Appleton Chapel before classes each day.

The short service of choral music, Psalm readings, prayers, and daily guest homily will now be held from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. Monday through Friday during the academic term.

The reason for the change is the elimination this fall of “Harvard Time,” which allowed students to be up to seven minutes late for class. The earlier start will give faculty and students, including members of the choir, time to reach their 9 a.m. classes punctually following the service.

“The 16 Choral Fellows of the Harvard University Choir devote so much time and energy to filling Appleton Chapel with glorious music on a daily basis, but recently several of our singers are consistently late to class, which is unacceptable,” said Edward Elwyn Jones, Gund University Organist and Choirmaster in the Memorial Church. “The new schedule will allow our students to begin the day in song and continue to class in a timely fashion.”

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved the new class schedule last spring. The decision was made in preparation of the 2020 opening of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences across the Charles River in Allston, according to a recent article in The Harvard Crimson. To allow travel time between campuses, class start times are now staggered between Cambridge and Allston. The earliest classes of the day in Cambridge start at 9 a.m.

May Wang ’20, a member of the Choral Fellows, said she was missing the first few minutes of class each day because Morning Prayers were ending just as her first class began.

“The new time means that I don’t have to be late for class, and I can use the new 15-minute passing time to prepare myself for my first class of the day, which is pretty helpful since it’s wholly in French,” she said. “Plus, some of our Fellows have to make it to classes that they are teaching, so I imagine the new time change will help them out too.”