Bates College will rename its nearly century-old Bates College Chapel “The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Chapel” in honor of Harvard’s late Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister at Memorial Church.
Gomes, who graduated from the Maine liberal arts school in 1965, was a frequent preacher at the chapel to be named in his honor, and a friend of many in the Bates community.
“Peter Gomes is adored still at Bates. He so loved this college,” said Reverend Bill Blaine-Wallace, a multifaith chaplain at Bates. “Having a friend like Peter certainly made me feel blessed.”
Blaine-Wallace’s connection with Gomes was indicative of the close ties the late Reverend Professor maintained with the Bates community.
When Blaine-Wallace first arrived as a minister at Bates in 2006, a letter from Gomes awaited him on his desk, Blaine-Wallace said. Gomes wrote that it would be a privilege to serve at Bates and that Blaine-Wallace should not hesitate to contact him if he needed anything. Blaine-Wallace said he took up Gomes’ offer, consulting him mainly on pastoral matters.
Gomes was a frequent visitor at Bates, last speaking in the chapel at the college’s 2010 reunion.
In a 2005 piece published in Bates Magazine, Gomes described one of his first experiences in the chapel, which occurred soon after he matriculated.
“I shook my father’s hand, kissed my mother, and then they drove off. I went back into the chapel to cry in privacy,” Gomes wrote. “There I saw a tall, spare, bald-headed man slowly picking up the litter in the pews. I took him to be a janitor. He noted my distress, and in a solemn but friendly voice said that I’d soon feel better about college.”
The man turned out to be Dean of the Faculty Harry W. Rowe, who remained friends with Gomes for the remainder of his life.
Speaking at the college’s reunion nearly 50 years later, Gomes still saw the chapel as a central place for his relationships at Bates.
“True reunion is not just a meeting of those who may be walking around, but is that reconnection with those whom we do not see, whom we do not hear, but whose names we know,” he told the audience.
The Bates Chapel is a Gothic house of prayer open to all religious faiths complete with a 36-stop organ and stained glass windows depicting mostly secular figures.
Bates plans to officially dedicate the chapel to Gomes next spring in a series of events in his memory, according to Blaine-Wallace.
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.