Campus Church Celebrates 70 Years

Memorial Church looks back, concludes campaign

The Memorial Church marked its 70th anniversary Sunday with a day of events marked by both solemnity and celebration.

The Sunday morning service was devoted to the annual Commemoration of Benefactors and of the War Dead and was followed by a luncheon marking the conclusion of an eight million dollar capital campaign, the largest in the church’s history.

The Memorial Church was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1932, to the memory of the members of Harvard University killed in World War I. Monuments have since been added to the church commemorating those members of the University killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Eton College Provost Eric Anderson delivered the sermon. Speakers at the following luncheon included University President Lawrence H. Summers, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes and Jeremy R. Knowles, former dean of the Faculty and Houghton professor of chemistry.

The service filled the pews of the Church with current and former members of the Harvard community.

After the service, vergers and a bagpiper led more than 500 members of the the congregation to the large white tent in front of the Science Center for the luncheon.

“I think I can say, without understatement, that this is an eight million dollar lunch,” said Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, in welcoming the group to the luncheon.

Summers spoke about the importance of the University’s role in fostering education as a tool for peace.

He said understanding the moral failings and tragic consequences of the past would lead to “a future which will be better, where there will be less call for memorial churches.”

John deC. Blondel Jr. ’78, the chair of the church’s capital campaign, called the fundraising efforts a major success.

“For this afternoon and for some time to come, things look very good,” he said.

Anderson’s sermon—delivered during the service preceding the luncheon—emphasized the horrors faced by graduates of both Harvard and Eton in the two World Wars. He called on the congregation to be vigilant against allowing the mistakes of the past to be repeated and noted some of the students in the congregation could be called upon to fight in Iraq.

“There are no isolationists in the battle between good and evil which still rages around the world,” Anderson said at the end of his sermon. “We must not break faith with those who have died.”

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and President of the Board of Overseers Thomas S. Williamson Jr. ’68 read from the Bible during the service.

Following the sermon, the congregation sang a hymn composed for the occasion by Gomes.

Harvard alums who are war veterans and current members of the Reserve Officers Training Corps carried a laurel wreath from the altar of the church into the church’s Memorial Room. They placed the wreath beneath the monuments and the names of the members of the University killed in World War I.

Members of the congregation said they were impressed by the power of the service and the sermon and praised the role the church has played in the University over the last 70 years.

“I don’t think there is anybody who has graduated on whom [the Memorial Church] has not made a lasting impression,” said Thomas G. Stevenson ’37.