Staff Editorial: Graham Chapel open hours offers new space to reflect, destress

At the beginning of the semester, the Office for Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Life introduced open hours at Graham Chapel. These are essentially times when the Chapel is available for general student use. The Chapel, which before was only unlocked for reserved events, will now be unlocked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The new open hours are advertised as an opportunity for students to “stop by to reflect, pray, pause or catch your breath,” emphasizing the importance of taking a moment for yourself. Though praying is one way to do this, you can also pause in the Chapel for non-religious reasons.

The Chapel’s open hours are an opportunity for students to sit down and de-stress for a moment. However, not everyone may be comfortable with using the Chapel this way—the University was founded as a seminary, and the Chapel is filled with specifically religious objects and decorations. This may be off-putting for some, but the Office wishes the change to be welcoming and to make the Chapel “open to all.”

That means making the space open to both non-religious students and to students of all religions. Though the Chapel is decorated with primarily Christian imagery, the opening of the Chapel as well as the upcoming Interfaith Week (Feb. 14-21) aims to welcome students of all spiritual or religious beliefs.

Additionally, Graham Chapel is only one of the spaces on campus dedicated to prayer or reflection. Reflection rooms can be found in the Danforth University Center, Hillman and Lee Halls, Lopata House and Olin Library. If the Chapel is not a space you feel comfortable in, these rooms are available for student use.

However, the Chapel’s open hours are not only for religious or spiritual students. The more people use the Chapel as a space of reflection and claim it as a student space, the less it will feel tied to specific religious beliefs. The Chapel is now a space open to students unaffiliated with academics, and we should take advantage of this. It is a centrally located space on campus and a beautiful building for students to appreciate and use.

Graham Chapel is one of Wash. U.’s most recognizable buildings. Until now, most of the opportunities for students to be in the Chapel have been for events like The Date. During these, there is not much opportunity to take in the beauty of the space. Even if you don’t use the Chapel as a religious space, take a moment to look around and enjoy the building, both aesthetically and as a place to put University life on pause for a moment.

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