November 11, 2008

Diverse crowd welcomes new Rockefeller Chapel dean at musical ceremony

[img id="77001" align="alignleft"] Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Davenport was installed as the sixth dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in a ceremony Sunday evening.

The ceremony brought together representatives from each of the major religious and spiritual student organizations, musical groups, and community groups that Davenport will collaborate with as dean.

Participating groups included The Pullman Morris and Sword Dancers, the Muslim Student Association, the Hindu Student Sangam, Wat Dhammaram, the Newberger Hillel Center, the Motet Choir, the Divinity School, and the Rockefeller Chapel Choir.

“We wanted to reflect all of the richness that make up our community and all the diversity by including readings and chanting of sacred texts, dance, and songs,” said Laura Hollinger, associate dean of Rockefeller Chapel.

A centerpiece of the ceremony was an anthem composed specially for the occasion by James Kallembach, the director of choral ctivities and senior lecturer in the music department. Kallenbach said he was inspired to write the “Wisdom Canticles” upon hearing that Davenport was a musician. Davenport supplied him with excerpts from ancient Hebrew and Indian texts discussing wisdom.

“I think [the choice of diverse texts] is an especially appropriate conceit for the role of religion in the academy, and a way to see that many people still practice religion as a cultural tradition and also to see it as a path to wisdom,” Kallembach said.

The texts chosen for the anthem were read at greater length, and Richard Rosengarten, dean of the Divinity School, spoke on religion in the academy, arguing that religion is an important part of understanding humanity.

“What [William Rainey] Harper and his colleagues sowed and nurtured as they founded the University was a culture in which engaged argument might flourish and in which the possible roles of religion in that engagement were not only recognized but fostered and encouraged,” Rosengarten said. “A great University, then, requires a great chapel.”

Davenport mentioned that as a musician, she looks forward to promoting musical performances in Rockefeller.

“This is an auspicious time for a new beginning with the organ and the carillon recently restored,” Davenport said.

In her post, Davenport will oversee the use of the chapel and will work to facilitate dialogue between various religious groups on campus.