Nearly every aspect of Concord Academy has been affected by the pandemic, and chapels are no different. Chapels are often the highlight of the year for students, as they provide the senior class with the opportunity to open up the community and pass on wisdom that resonates for years to come. And now, for the first time ever, seniors have had to move their big moment out of the Chapel. However, this hasn’t stopped them from finding unique ways to deliver their messages.
One innovation students have utilized is pre-recorded chapels. They play the video for the school on their scheduled chapel date. This way, seniors can record their chapel as many times as they want, and get to choose the takes that the schools will see. This takes away a lot of the pressure, and allows for students to look back on their performance, and see how they can improve for the next take. In addition, it gives seniors the freedom to film it wherever they choose, without having to worry about getting back to their home for their next class. Sara McKenna ’21, who gave one of the first chapels of the year, really wanted to record in front of the Chapel. On her chapel date, she had class up until 15 minutes before she was to present, which was not nearly enough time to get to campus. When asked why she decided to pre-record her chapel, she said that “the main reason is so that I could do it logistically on campus, in front of the Chapel.”
Another technique that Sara used in her chapel was video editing. She decided to use editing software to add pictures of the people she thanked the screen as she was thanking them. Pictures of friends and family have been present on chapel posters for a long time, but the power of editing allowed Sara to take her thank-you’s one step further.“ This is an unprecedented time,” Sara said. “So might as well do something unprecedented in my chapel.”
The pandemic has also impacted what seniors are saying in their chapel and the message they are trying to send. Rachel Hu ’21, another student who has already given her chapel this year, used a part of her time to encourage freshmen to reach out and talk to her, even if they didn’t know her. Rachel understood how difficult the pandemic can be, and acknowledged that sometimes, you just need someone to talk to to help you get through months spent inside. She made herself very available to freshmen as someone they could connect with, and she has been able to do so with several students. This would never have happened had the effects of the COVID lockdown not made her think to include that part in her chapel. “If it weren’t for the pandemic,” she said, “I definitely would not have put that in my chapel.”
The pandemic also made Rachel consider how she would use humor in her chapel, and the effect it would have on the audience. When the community is gathered together in the Chapel, it can be easy for people to laugh at jokes and enjoy themselves, as they feed off the energy of the crowd, and feel more invested in the experience. Now that students and teachers are alone, staring at a computer screen, a different style of humor is required to get a reaction out of viewers. Rachel said, “I feel like there’s a different type of humor that you can get at when it’s actually in the chapel, and you need to calibrate your humor differently when it’s virtual.”
Even though the pandemic has changed the way chapels look, their essence remains the same. While the student receives hugs through emails, every virtual embrace they get builds their confidence. Despite the fact that the student presenting is often in a room by themselves, miles away from their peers, the energy and passion from their friends on the virtual friend bench radiates through the screen. Even though the student simply speaks words onto a camera, a community hears their message. Chapels at CA are special, and, pandemic or no pandemic, that will never change.