On November 4, 2020, the evening after the presidential election, students gathered on the Front Circle for a contemplative, candlelit service known as compline. Given the turmoil of 2020, the Rev. Betsy Carmody, head chaplain, and the Rev. Richmond Jones, assistant chaplain, recognized a need to gather and bear witness to its many historic moments. “We wanted to acknowledge that something large was happening. It was about coming together into a space,” said Jones.
Compline, originally founded in the monastic tradition, has since been adopted by many Christian denominations and begins with a simple prayer: “The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end.”
The service is designed to last only 10 minutes, short enough to be recited entirely from memory. Anywhere from 10 to 20 students have attended the weeknight services, and Jones found that the simplicity and ease of the practice prompted more students to attend the Vestry’s Sunday service. “Compline is a very low-risk service to attend,” he said. “It can wake a longing for more spirituality.”
For Jones, compline is more about slowing down and observing one’s surroundings than anything else. “We busy ourselves so much with the work that we have, but the cosmos continues to move despite what we do. Placing ourselves within that, for me, is very much an act of humility and acceptance that I find really grounding.”
As for the future, compline will continue as long as students are interested. Because the service doesn’t vary, it is easily led by students, and Carmody and Jones attend as witnesses, not leaders. “If only two students came, it would still be a success,” Jones said.