Every Tuesday morning a small group of MIT faculty, staff, and students shuffle through the MIT Chapel doors and mingle quietly until 8:30 a.m. arrives. The organ then starts playing that week’s musical selection, and everyone takes their seats. After a few minutes of music, John Wuestneck, Interim Chaplain to the Institute, stands at the podium. He reads a passage from a novel, or a poem, or a news article—whatever he feels is relevant to the topic of discussion that week. Another MIT community member from the audience follows suit, but this time, the words are more personal—maybe a story from childhood or of a recent struggle or success. They then sit and the postlude plays. After a few minutes, everyone moves over to the Religious Activities Center for coffee and conversation. This is Tuesdays in the Chapel.
Tuesdays in the Chapel is a nondenominational speaker series where people come together to listen to music and hear words from a different member of the MIT community each week based on a theme chosen at the beginning of the semester. This spring, the theme is “How do I find balance and joy in the midst of change?”—a topic many can relate to given the national turmoil. And this semester, the speakers have been, as always, engaging and open with their personal experiences.
For example, earlier this year, Dave Thom, MIT Chaplain and President of the Leadership Connection, shared part of an article from a Paris Review interview with novelist John Irving. Irving was asked to give advice to young or struggling writers, but his advice resonated not only with authors but with the entire audience. Related to the overall topic of change, part of the passage reads:
“Along the way, accidents happen, detours get taken—the accidents turn out to be some of the best things. But these are not “divine” accidents; I don’t believe in those. I believe you have constructive accidents en route through a novel only because you mapped a clear way.”
On a more recent Tuesday, Claude Muhinda, a financial analyst in the Division of Student Life, spoke about the passing of his mother two years ago in Rwanda. He brought comfort to those still struggling with “finding balance and joy in the midst of change.” He reminded us that change is a process, and not everyone finds balance or joy right away—you must respect the process that someone else may be going through. He finished by telling the group about an activity a teacher conducted where students were all handed a piece of paper with a black circle right in the middle and told to write about what they see. The teacher collected the prompts and read them aloud, noting that no one wrote about the white part of the paper while everyone focused on the black circle. Claude went on to say how this exercise shows us what we often do with our own lives; we focus on the dark spots instead of being grateful for all the light. He says this was a positive way of thinking that helped him get through some of his hardest times. He left everyone with what he calls “the smile of the day” or “le sourire du jour,” in French, the official language of the Democratic Republic of Congo where he was born.
The people who attend Tuesdays in the Chapel are the best part. They include chaplains, DSL administrators and staffers, interns, assistant deans, professors, and students—all of different faiths. The chapel provides a relaxing atmosphere for all people to meditate and take thirty minutes to slow down from the usual hustle of everyday life. Tuesdays in the Chapel is open to any and all who are interested. Find more information and view the upcoming speakers on the Tuesdays in the Chapel webpage or reach out to John Wuestneck at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the email list.
Written by Brenna Morrissey