Finding hope at the Institute

Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph reflects on the challenge of finding hope in hard times, and the chaplains efforts to bring the MIT community together with words of encouragement.


In the past year, the chaplains at MIT have perceived that many members of the MIT community are struggling with difficult times. Their response is a new weekly series, Tuesdays in the Chapel at MIT, built around the theme "Finding Hope in Hard Times."
 
Held in the MIT chapel every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., the 20-minute gatherings offer participants a period for reflection with readings and music from the chapel's organ. Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph recently discussed the series and its purpose.

 
Q. The Tuesday series could have any theme you want. Why "Finding Hope in Hard Times?"
A. Everybody is saying that this is a really hard time at MIT, but it is also a chance to come together and talk about how you find hope in hard times. What keeps you going? Friends are getting laid off, things are tough, you're worried about your job. What can we do to give you encouragement and help us all get through this difficult time? What is it that gives you hope?
 
I know that I can make today better then yesterday, if I think about it. So the Tuesday services give people a chance to stop and reflect about our week, think about what we are doing, and have a chance to be shaped by music and words.
 
What we say at the services, we are calling "words of encouragement," which we will post on the Chaplain's blog each week. We're not trying to be profound. But we are saying that these are things that matter and people need to be thinking about each other. We are part of a community.
 
I'm not trying to bring religion to MIT, but we do want to have these moments in time where we celebrate and think and reflect on what it means to be at this place.  It can be very hard to start something new, but I just decided that we need to give people in this community a chance to say what is important and reclaim an identity as a community. 
 
Q. How did the idea for a Tuesday morning service come about?
A. First, one of the realities about MIT is that we seldom stop and think and pause in our days.  Having an opportunity to do that is worthwhile.
 
Second, the MIT Chapel is iconic. When people come here to visit, it is one of the buildings they want to see. It is the work of an architect that is revered and a lovely space. I run into people all the time that say, "Gosh, I have never been to the Chapel." The services get people into the chapel. 
 
Third, the chapel has an organ that is quite a nice instrument, and by using the organ for the service it gives people a chance to hear it.
 
Q. What is the service like?
A. It's very simple, with just the chaplains speaking right now, but we would like to broaden it. Each service runs for 12-14 minutes and draws on the different religious traditions, using a mix of psalms and poetry.
 
After the service, we have coffee in the Religious Life Center (W11). The service finishes a little before 9:00 AM, which gives us a chance to have coffee and draw together a group of people together who don't normally get together. And then we have a chance to have a conversation.
 
Conversations I've had with people already tell me that this could be a really important thing for people. When do we ever have a chance to sit down and connect to people from across the institute?


Topics: Chapel, Religion, Student life

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