Reverend Jonathan L. Walton formally accepted on Sunday his role as Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister, during the eightieth anniversary service of Memorial Church’s founding.
While many attended the morning services to observe Walton’s appointment, the ceremony lasted only ten minutes. In a formalized exchange between University president and minister-apparent, University President Drew G. Faust asked Walton if he was willing to perform the responsibilities of Harvard’s religious leader, to which he replied affirmatively.
In accepting the position, Walton paid tribute to the Harvard graduates who have died in wars since World War I; the Church itself is a memorial to these alumni. “We are all beneficiaries of someone’s sacrifice,” he said. “This building honors those who paid the ultimate price in protecting our nation.”
During the service, a group of children who attend the Church School at Memorial Church—including Walton’s older children Zora Neale and Elijah Mays—presented him with a welcome banner featuring every child’s handprints.
Reverend Charles G. Adams, a minster in Detroit and former professor Harvard Divinity School, led the sermon, focusing his talk on the adage “Yes, we can.” In the talk, which preceded Walton’s institution as Pusey minister, Adams listed well-known individuals who overcame adversity in their lives—Martin Luther and Rosa Parks, for example. At the end, he listed Walton.
“One man, Jonathan Walton, has come to Harvard to preach the gospel to our nation’s future leaders,” he said.
Dean of the College Evelyn M. Hammonds, who was in attendance, said that she believes Walton will aptly lead Memorial Church during his tenure.
“The sermon today was wonderful and extraordinary. A new era is beginning at Memorial Church, and I have no doubt that the year to come will be wonderful,” she said in an interview with The Crimson immediately after the service.
Lowell House residents and sisters Danielle G. Rabinowitz ’14 and Arielle G. Rabinowitz ’14 performed a piano duet at the service, after being invited to play a piece by Walton, whom the sisters know from his time as a Lowell resident scholar.
“We’ve known Reverend Walton since we first arrived in Lowell as sophomores,” Danielle said. “He, his wife Cecily, and his children Elijah and Zora were such a huge part of the House community.”
Jasmine M. Omeke ’14, a first-time usher at the Church, said that she found both the sermon and service to be emotionally moving.
“It was beautiful—so incredibly beautiful. The sermon rang true for everybody in attendance, and I wish Reverend Walton the best of luck,” she said.
—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.