Campus, News

Faithful rise at Marsh

Marsh Chapel, long known as the spiritual center and physical heart of Boston University’s Charles River campus, is counting a record number of souls among its parishioners thanks to new outreach efforts, chapel officials say.
The campus anchor has seen attendance to its Sunday worship service almost double in size during the last two years, along with an average of 30,000 NPR listeners per Sunday. On a weekly basis, about 2,500 to 3,000 people worship in there, Chapel Dean Robert Hill said.
Marsh serves as the house of worship for the Interdenominational University Protestant Community Church while also housing the Office of the University Chaplain. The interdenominational services provide a ‘setting for friendship and fellowship of a healthy kind,’ Hill said.
‘Number-wise, it’s very much a blossoming community, which is exciting, because it’s about connecting people and growing together,’ Marsh Associate Tyler Sit said.
In previous academic years, Marsh lacked the proper resources and administration that it has today, keeping its attendance from reaching its full potential, Sit, a College of Communication sophomore, said.
‘Marsh Chapel has picked up its programming and has more stuff going on that are of interest to the community,’ Sit said. ‘We basically doubled in size with most of the new members being freshman.’
To improve its student outreach, Marsh recently added a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning ministry, along with a ministry that caters towards athletes, Sit said.
‘We are really trying to reach out to groups that may not have been recognized by Marsh Chapel in previous years,’ Sit said.
College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Ksenia Lanin said she attends LGBTQ ministry meetings to support the efforts to change the often negative connotation of the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity.
‘I think LGBTQ will inspire curiosity,’ Lanin said. ‘People will walk in and discover what Marsh is about.’
Marsh offers weekly studies for students to discuss and debate specific subjects. This semester, the weekly study topics are politics and religion and sex and religion.
‘BU is an interesting place to be. It’s one of the few schools that’s investing in religious life,’ Community Life Chaplain Lawrence Whitney said. ‘Most schools are cutting back funding. Here, BU is quite supportive and encouraging.’
Whitney said community is one of the most important needs for college students, and though not all students want a religious community, Marsh is available for those who do.
‘We are really driven towards one-on-one connections.,’ Whitney said. ‘That’s what builds a lasting community over time.’
In the future, Marsh aspires to have its Sunday worship service on other NPR affiliates as well. This could potentially include podcasts or’ even a satellite radio broadcast.
‘Marsh has made a lot of changes this year,’ Chapel Associate Liz Douglass said. ‘We really just jumped right into it before this year even started, with more events and staff jumping in to help with student outreach.’
School of Management sophomore Brent Sugay said he thinks Marsh cares about the individual more than the larger, more established churches he has attended in the past.
‘I think the church is practically run by the religious student body,’ Sugay said. ‘It’s run by the people who live and worship there.’
Staff writer Vanessa Santos contributed to the reporting of this article.

One Comment

  1. I think that it is wonderful that Marsh Chapel is growing! All students, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, (etc) should feel welcome and included in any church and it is fabulous to see a healthy, Christian community that embraces our god given differences. We are called to love all people – regardless of our differences. Congratulations, BU & Marsh Chapel for leading the way.