Memorial Church Construction Continues, Forcing Groups to Relocate

Despite ongoing construction, Memorial Church’s programming has continued largely unhindered as Church staff get creative with where they host events.

According to the Memorial Church website, the current construction focuses on functionality rather than appearance. The renovation centers around accessibility and safety upgrades, a remodeled lower level, and a climate control system.

Sunday services are being held in the Knafel Center, formerly known as Radcliffe Gym, and morning prayers have been relocated to Holden Chapel.

“I think attendance [at Church programs] has stayed about the same,” Benjamin J. Schafer ’19, an involved member of the Church, said. “Although we are not in the sanctuary on Sundays, we’re still very much the Memorial Church.”

The Knafel Center, which accommodates several hundred people, has been equipped with chairs and even a small organ. “It’s just wonderful in terms of an intimate space for worship,” said Memorial Church Senior Minister Lucy A. Forster-Smith.

Groups that have traditionally used Memorial Church as a large event venue have also had to relocate their activities. In addition to providing religious services, Memorial Church also served as a musical hub. Edward E. Jones, the Gund University Organist and Choirmaster of Memorial Church, said church choir rehearsals have been moved to Paine Hall.

Unable to access the large organ in Memorial Church, organ students now must play on alternative instruments. The small electric organ in use during services in the Knafel Center, which Jones called a “makeshift” organ, must be manually assembled before each service.

Furthermore, the Church has historically hosted the Harvard Foundation's Harvard Humanitarian Award ceremony. According to the Harvard Foundation, this year’s ceremony will be relocated to the Science Center due to the construction.

“Memorial Church is an iconic feature of the campus so there is always demand for this space. Fortunately, the University has many tremendous venues and during the renovation the Events Management office is working with event sponsors to find alternative spaces,” Brigid O’Rourke, a University spokesperson, wrote in an email.

The Church is slated to be ready for use by spring semester, according to Forster-Smith.

—Staff writer Jiwon Joung can be reached at joung@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @YunaJoung.

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