• Vested Interest

Our New Chapel: Ways to Fall in Love

Mary Davenport Davis
February 8, 2017

When you fall in love with someone, you come to know them in many different ways. Perhaps you started with a fairly direct and formal relationship, and as your love builds you begin to long to grow closer to them over a shared meal, inside jokes, quiet moments of meditation. Slowly over time you come to a fuller sense of who your beloved is: who they are when they are in public, in private, in joy and in grief; who they are with older and younger generations; who they are in the morning and in the evening and asleep at night. When we fall in love with God, we slowly begin to realize that God abides in our world in many ways, all of them full, authentic, and beautiful. And as our love grows, we long to know God in different ways, in and through different times and spaces.


The sanctuary of Trinity Church Boston is one of the great artistic treasures of America. But it’s not a museum. It exists to be used, to be lived in, to help the church give glory to God. Everything about it both points toward and participates in God’s presence. Each of us probably has our favorite aspect of the sanctuary, our favorite stained-glass window or ornamental embellishment. My own favorite is the gilded, domed ceiling over the chancel; more accurately, it’s the space the ceiling contains. Being inside Trinity’s sanctuary feels to me like standing on a mountaintop or on the ocean. Its serene spaciousness brings me to my knees, literally and figuratively, exulting that “there’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.” This is one way I fall in love with God.


Despite its majesty and fame, Trinity’s sanctuary is also not the same thing as Trinity Church. We are Trinity Church: all of us, young and old, those who have passed into God’s full embrace and those not yet born. All of us who fall in love with God here and work to realize God’s vision for the world, together, in this particular place and time and form—we are Trinity Church. Our sanctuary exists to house and hold up our worship and ministries. And for a long time, we as a congregation have begun to feel the need for a space that might bring us into different ways of knowing God than our sanctuary fosters.


A delicious meal can be eaten around a simple wooden table in a kitchen, surrounded by aromas of the pantry and children’s drawings on the fridge; a meal served in a formal dining room bedecked with crystal and china might be equally delicious, but will necessarily have a different flavor. We can seek nourishment in different ways within different spaces. Many of us who love Trinity wait all year for the glorious pageantry of the Easter Vigil, when we move together through the darkness of Jesus’ death into the astonishing experience of his resurrected life. And on that night we rejoice in the blessing of a sanctuary that heightens our sense of God’s majesty and grandeur. But at times of deep vulnerability, we might not wish for the company of a thousand of our closest friends. We might need, instead, to know that God is intimately with us, closer than our own breath. We might long for a sacred space that points us toward the God who holds us in her strong arms and does not let us go.


We dream that this new chapel will become a place where we can all come to know God in myriad new ways. I imagine intimate worship services of healing and reconciliation being held, psalms being chanted during daily prayer, the gracious silence of a few gathered together for silent contemplation. I imagine the lonely and lost finding an unnameable comfort here; I imagine young people learning to claim Christianity in their own way through experimentation, finding that worship can be playful as well as ponderous; I imagine gathering in joy to give thanks for a child, an engagement, a recovery. I hope for all these things, and more. And I know—because this is how God works—that the ways we come to know God in this chapel will be far more beautiful than anything I can imagine.


At "Vested Interest," church nerd Mary Davenport Davis explores all things liturgy and music at Trinity and beyond. Chime in with comments and questions!