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Chapel: It's a place. It's a program. It's a tradition.
From its beginnings as a religious service affiliated with the Episcopal church to its current form as an opportunity for mindfulness, celebration, and cross-cultural learning, Rowland Hall's chapel program continues to evolve.
Rowland Hall began as a missionary school, established by the Episcopal church as the first non-Mormon day school in Utah. While Episcopal leaders ran the school and conducted religious services, children of many faiths enrolled. According to Something Eternal, a 2004 book about the school's history, the educational system was "designed for serious learning," which attracted families throughout the region, especially those that planned to send their sons to eastern colleges or universities.
For many years—through the creation of a separate school for girls in the 1870s, the closure of St. Mark's School in 1896, and the first several decades of Rowland Hall's existence—chapel services were held every day. Members of the Altar Guild, described in the 1929 Crimson Rambler as "a vital and integral part of our school life," kept the chapel space clean and properly arranged so it would be ready for services each day.
The highest honor for a student at Rowland Hall was to be named crucifer: the young woman in this role led the procession of the choir in daily chapel and at special services like Candle and Carol. The crucifer was elected by the student body, and faculty appointed junior and senior girls as acolytes—those who worked alongside the crucifer during chapel services and represented the spiritual life of the school, according to the 1954 Lantern. Alumna Jodie Ray Hunt '58 spoke fondly of her experiences in chapel as a Rowland Hall student. "It was the most wonderful way to start the day, whether you were religious or not," she said.
After St. Mark's School reopened in 1956, chapels became the only opportunity for the boys of St. Mark's to join the girls of Rowland Hall, which according to Skip Branch '60, was what the young men cared most about. Boys also served on the chapel committee, as acolytes, and in the choir, alongside their female peers. The 1964 Marker—the last yearbook from the boys school, before the merger in the fall of that year—described the unity of chapel services:
Within this thirty-minute service, the student body is more closely welded together in thought than at any other time during the day. Its quietness and peacefulness provide an atmosphere for meditation and corporate prayers before the student enters the sometimes hectic world of school. And yet chapel is more than a morning service. It is a place of retreat for the school community where students and faculty together can share their griefs and their joys as a unified body. Perhaps the meaning of chapel has never been clearer to us than upon the assassination of President Kennedy when we could do the only thing possible...pray.
Throughout the next few decades, as Rowland Hall underwent significant changes, including the closure of the boarding department and the transition of the upper grades to the Lincoln Street Campus, chapel service gradually became less of a regular practice. By 1974, it was no longer mandatory, and in the 1980s, chapel programs expanded to include non-religious experiences, including open forums for discussion of current events on Thursdays. However, St. Margaret's Chapel on the Avenues Campus—built in 1910 with funds donated in memory of Virginia Lafayette Rowland, who helped establish Rowland Hall—remained a special place for all members of the school community. When plans for the McCarthey Campus developed in the early 2000s, school leaders insisted that the original stained glass windows, beloved pieces of art, and pipe organ must be relocated to the newly constructed St. Margaret's Chapel on Guardsman Way.
Even though Rowland Hall officially separated from the Episcopal Church in 1933, the school retained an Episcopal chaplain until 2014. Today, Jeremy Innis serves as interfaith chaplain and works primarily with Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education, planning monthly chapels for upper and middle school students. In the Lower School, Emotional Support Counselor Chuck White teams with Mr. Innis and Mr. Hoglund to lead twice-monthly services. Across all divisions, chapel programs teach about diverse religious practices and traditions and focus on instilling curiosity, confidence, and compassion in our students.
The goal of graduating good citizens began with the founding of the school and continues to guide the work of our chapel and ethical education programs. Whether listening to a guest speaker, singing with peers, or volunteering at the Utah Food Bank, students consistently identify and expand their sense of responsibility for themselves and their community.