Student Life

Chapel

Built at a time when Peddie was a Baptist institution, the Ayer Memorial Chapel was intended for worship and as a gathering place for the entire Peddie community.
 
Indeed, Baptist ministers from outside the Peddie community routinely presided over chapel, including a 1957 visit by a then little-known preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
While both the physical interior and exterior of the chapel is virtually unchanged, the use of the chapel today would be, in some cases, unrecognizable by some of those who attended the chapel’s dedication in 1951. The altar is now decorated with a cross representing Christianity, a Star of David representing Judaism, an Om representing Hinduism, and a plaque with the 99 Islamic names for Allah. A Bible remains on the altar at all times, while a Menorah is added during Hannukah.
 
Twice-weekly chapel still serves as a community-wide gathering but instead of sermons, features presentations ranging from brief musical performances to talks by students, faculty, alumni or guests.  The traditional opening to every chapel is the announcement of prayer requests, followed simply by a moment of silence.
 
The chapel has been used to mark every stage of life for various members of the Peddie family.  Children of Peddie alumni have been baptized there and on at least one occasion, a Bar Mitzvah was celebrated.  Since girls were readmitted in 1971, chapel weddings have become increasingly popular while many alumni and faculty members have requested their funerals and memorial services be held in the chapel.
This chapel seat has worn a hundred names.
I am but one.
I call it mine.
Will it recognize the surface of my coat
in a year
in a lifetime
tomorrow?
The weekly molding of my dreams
in that seat
in that silence.
The air, a concentrated mix
of five hundred separate dreams.
I've heard them all.
I've dreamt them, too.
A little closer each year
so close
so close to the front now
that leaving is hard to do.
Not like the years before
when I could have slipped out the back unnoticed.
Somewhere else
an invitation
an empty seat
an untouched dream awaits.
Yesterday lives in silence.
You can find me there amongst the others.
Go in peace.
Seniors first.

— Alia Santini '96