Sparks House Ends Wednesday Tea Tradition

After over  three decades of Wednesday teas at Sparks House, the staff of Memorial Church has decided to discontinue the tradition, carried on by the late Reverend Peter J. Gomes until his death in 2011.

The staff of the Church have decided to launch a new tradition of gatherings at the recently opened MemChurch Café. After morning prayers on Wednesday, members of the community can gather at the Café for coffee and pastries.

“It will have the same ethos and hospitality [as the Wednesday teas],” said Memorial Church Epps Fellow Nathaniel P. Katz.“It will be a social space for the community, where people can cross-pollinate, socially, intellectually, morally, and ethically.”

According to Katz, the Church has placed a renewed emphasis on fostering community across the Harvard campus, in line with President Drew G. Faust’s efforts to unite Harvard’s schools into “One University.”

“We’re really looking to open up our doors—literally—in a space that is right at the crossroads of life on campus,” Katz said.

Michael P. Stanley ’13, a regular tea attendee who occasionally played piano at the gatherings, said that although he was disappointed when he first heard that Wednesday teas at Sparks House would be discontinued, he has come see it as a change rather than an end.

“The tradition that I saw and I felt was a tradition of refreshment and retreat from what is otherwise a hectic world and that tradition is being maintained through this new attempt,” Stanley said.

On days with good weather, the gathering will take place outside. On days when the weather is poor, it will be held in the Church’s Memorial room.

This fall the Church also welcomed its new Pusey Minister, Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, who was chosen last spring to follow in Gomes’s footsteps.

When Rev. Walton and his family are more settled in Sparks House, they plan to open it up to the Harvard community and host various events, according to Katz.

Gomes first began to host Wednesday teas in 1974.

“Rev. Gomes greeted every person that walked in,” said Stanley. “When you left there, you were a better person than when you walked in—you felt a little lighter.”

Justin Mathew ’14 started going to Wednesday tea regularly in his sophomore year after seeing it publicized in Memorial Church announcements.

“It was really this unique opportunity to interact with all the faculty, as well as other people who are involved with the church,” Mathew said. “You got this very diverse group of people with sundry personalities.”

After Gomes’s death, Katz restarted the tradition—which had waned while Gomes was sick—in tribute to the late Reverend and to create a place for members of the community to grieve.

“[The teas] were delightful and charming. If you had to put one word on it, they were a retreat,” Stanley said.

—Staff writer D. Simone Kovacs can be reached at dkovacs@college.harvard.edu.

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