I’m actually returning to a post that I said I’d write.

It’s not so much that I don’t have ideas like this that require follow up, but more that I’m easily distractible. And this week has been distracting. As of today, by the end of business, I should be caught up. Yikes.

Anyhow. To the post. I was asked in comments if it would actually be better for the school to shut down debate on Marquand. I started my answer as follows.

But there is a strong interest on the part of the leadership of Marquand to change the format of how these disagreements are taking place. Being used as the punching bag for a generalized conflict over the institutional identity of YDS isn’t exactly anybody’s idea of fun. And she’s right, and if Chapel continues to be the focus of ideological conflict here, it will become an extremely difficult place to be in.

The long and the short of it…it won’t be possible to shut down debate on Marquand. Perhaps the best exhibit is the Common Room from 10:20 to 11. The school has cliques, and folks know who their allies are…and people are going to talk. Where the classroom has the aura of authority to shield it from some of the harshest criticisms, we’re by and large church folk. Sniping at the inadequacies of church services comes naturally to us.

I think the most productive avenue is to directly contest what Yale Div is supposed to look like, and channel fewer of our frustrations through criticism of chapel. As i blogged earlier, i simply don’t think many of the charges are born out by facts, and must be read as reflecting a broader discontent with the school. So let’s get to it…and talk about what we think YDS as a whole ought to look like.

Here’s my saying more. I don’t think we can, or ought to, shut down debate on Marquand. And if you put the question directly to Siobhán or Patrick, it would really surprise me if they said yes. And that’s not just being cynical about an expected level of honesty.

But I think what we see here is an attempt to perform a pretty radical transformation of how critique is being carried out. If response to Marquand means sending emails or setting up appointments, it means that the primary and sole audience is the Chapel Team, or a representative thereof. Where as really, a Dear Theo isn’t so much about going to the powers that be, as much as it is seeking to form and identify a community of agreement around some of these issues.

I still hear the phrase “they don’t let you say Lord in chapel” all the time, and to be honest, it’s starting to really get to me. It’s fine to issue a sustained critique of practices there, but misrepresentation is a different ball game. I don’t even go very often, and I can tell you that’s hogwash. But it’s phrases and ideas like that that serve as identity formation. For someone who affiliates with that language, “They Prefer If Lord Is Not the Sole Address of God” is just not as catchy in forming a community. It lacks the fire and zeal.

So what you have is a Chapel Team that more or less wants to respond honestly to issues involved in ecumenical worship, and to do so privately and under their system…and groups of students, seeking to define themselves at an institution at which they feel to some degree alien…

I don’t need to tell you this is at cross purposes. A private meeting with Siobán doesn’t help produce community affiliation around evangelical/conservative liturgical aesthetics.

So. As I hinted above, I don’t think that the solution is a shut down of dialogue, but rather an expansion to cover issues that we may be trying to exorcise through Marquand. We need to get honest about curriculum, admissions, hiring, and other institutional questions that have been backgrounded for various reasons. It may be more comfortable to discuss this in terms of liturgy, because we all feel a certain sense of authority in that sense. It may be that the sense of offense is all the sharper for being from church. But I just can’t imagine that all of this drama is really just about Marquand.

But there are things worth talking about, and worth talking about in community. For one, my consistent peeve with the “Chapel is student led, so be the change you want to see in the service” meme is that we’re freaking busy. In order to have diversity in chapel, it appears that representatives of groups (who are already taxed by their efforts to provide safe space, maintain community, represent their group in other formats, and just get their own damn work done…) need to put those things on hold and help plan a service. Now, I’m not charging that the chapel is performing whitewash by being demanding, but that we need to question where the default is…that for the sake of imagination, we assumed that the chairs of YBS, YKA, Coalition, Women’s Center, etc…were all really busy for a while and didn’t plan any services…

What would the chapel look like? What concerns, styles and voices would still be present, because of proactive leadership of the Chapel? What would be lost?

Student led worship is a fine idea. But it is not a neutral one when the world, and Yale in particular is already so demanding, especially of certain students. The burden of representation is not a light one.

-sly

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