Reverend Peter J. Gomes, who has overseen the Memorial Church for the last three and a half decades, had a stroke Dec. 10, according to Jonathan Page, a former Epps Fellow and at Memorial Church.
Gomes, 68, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital last week.
“I think he’s still there. He might have gone home already,” said Page, who has not spoken with Gomes, but has been in touch with others who had. Page said Gomes had been able to communicate with visitors, but “will not be preaching in the near future.”
“There’s been an attempt to make sure he doesn’t get too inundated [by visitors],” he said. “A number of people have seen in him the last week.”
A spokeswoman for Massachusetts General Hospital said Gomes was not listed on the hospital’s public registry, so she could not disclose whether Gomes had been admitted to the hospital.
By all accounts, Gomes—who planned to retire in 2012—has been a central figure at Memorial Church.
“He’s a vocal advocate for all sorts of religious expression on campus,” Page said. “He’s sort of the force of religion at Harvard in the last 35 years.”
Many affiliated with the church said they wondered how the church would fill the void created by Gomes’ absence.
“I think he’s a big reason why a lot of people go to Memorial Church,” said Helen E. Bradshaw ’11, Memorial Church’s school director. “I’ve wondered what the Church is going to be like without him.”
The Church has brought on Reverend Wendel W. Meyer as associate minister for administration. Meyer was formerly the minister at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms, Mass. and has previously worked at Memorial Church.
Memorial Church, where Gomes has traditionally delivered over 50 percent of the sermons, has a particularly busy schedule during the winter holidays.
“The fact that this happened at all and the fact that it happened at this time a year, which is such an important part of this community’s life, is very difficult and we’re all feeling it very strong and clearly,” said Nathaniel P. Katz, the current Epps Fellow.
Jeff Neal, spokesman for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, released a statement on behalf of the University which reads, “We were very concerned to learn about Rev. Gomes’ health, and we continue to receive updates about his progress from his friends and family. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.”
Gomes is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church. He most recently wrote “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good about the Good News?”
This semester he taught Religion 42: “The Christian Bible and Its Interpretations” at the Harvard Divinity School and was scheduled to teach Religion 1513: “History of Harvard and Its Presidents” in the spring.
—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at email@example.com.