Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard & MIT

This data was last updated on 23 March 2021.

Address: 1953 Massachusetts Avenue, Unit 400405 Cambridge, MA 02140-9998

History: The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard  & MIT has its roots in the work of Thomas Ferrick, a former Roman Catholic priest who became the first Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University in 1974. Ferrick, who became ordained as a Priest after graduating from Holy Cross, served as the Catholic Chaplain at Dartmouth College. After many years in the Catholic Church he began to question his faith, and finally left the Priesthood in 1969. Ferrick ultimately decided that he wanted to serve as a Chaplain for non-religious students and in the 1970s joined Harvard as the first Humanist Chaplain. At a time when Harvard only had Chaplains for Protestants, Jews and Catholics, Ferrick’s addition was a momentous addition to spiritual diversity on Harvard’s campus. Ferrick served in this role until his retirement in 2005, when he passed on the role of Chaplain to Greg Epstein. From 2013 through 2018, the chaplaincy operated the Humanist Hub with weekly activities including a secular Sunday school for children. In 2018, Greg Epstein also became Humanist Chaplain at MIT and Convener for Ethical Life. 

Activities: The Humanist Chaplaincy focuses on the needs of students at Harvard and MIT, but also serves faculty, staff and alumni. From time to time, the chaplaincy sponsors events open to the public, including annual awards to inspiring Humanist leaders.

Philosophy/Engagement: In light of the occasional divide between humanist/atheist communities about those who call themselves ‘anti-theist’, the Humanist Chaplaincy is decidedly focused on providing community and opportunities for social action for people who aren’t religious, but who still see the positive aspects of religious communities. Consequently, the chaplaincy tries to participate in interfaith groups where appropriate, particularly around issues of social action and dialogue.