Boston-Area Schools Adapt Chapels for Increasingly Diverse Student Population

September 16, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

On September 16, 2006 The Boston Globe reported, "The spider-webbed highways of New Jersey lie far from the Hindu temples of India. Growing up in the Garden State, Anjuli Dhindhwal kept connected with the country of her parents mainly through its religion. Her mother and father often talked about the ancient Hindu scriptures. When she entered Harvard Divinity School last year, she found herself immersed in a Christian atmosphere she hadn't encountered before. Yet she has been perfectly comfortable praying in Andover Chapel, the school's main worship hall, despite its array of Christian iconography, from the majestic stained-glass windows over the altar to the prominent organ, choir pews, and altar. Dhindhwal says Hinduism encourages her to encounter God in all forms. But the school has also used subtle strategies to make the chapel comfortable for nonChristians. Stained-glass windows on the sides were replaced with plain glass; the chaplain works with student groups to change seating arrangements, decorations, and lighting to accommodate multiple religions' worship. Dhindhwal generally keeps an eye out for the ubiquitous cross in Christian worship spaces, but perhaps because Andover's is so modern in design, looking more like a bird's silhouette or a boomerang, she hasn't noticed it. Religious leaders have struggled to make their voices heard in the recent maelstrom over illegal immigration. Less noticed, perhaps, are the ways that legal immigrants have changed the faces and spaces of American religion in the past 40 years. A seismic overhaul of immigration law in 1965 scrapped discrimination against Asian immigrants and gave preference to reuniting families and skilled immigrants. As families poured in and sent their children through the ivied halls of US universities, the new Americans created a contrasting mosaic to traditionally dominant Christianity on campus."