The Chapel is the heart and soul of Concord Academy.
Once a Baptist meeting house, originally built in the 1700s in New Hampshire, it was disassembled and and rebuilt by students and faculty in 1956 under the leadership of head of school Elizabeth Hall. It was her vision to provide “a space for quiet in a crowded school.”
Today, in its second life as a secular building, it still provides that — it’s always open to students who want to grab a few moments of quiet reflection. It’s also where we gather together to sing away the cold in the winter, where we host alumnae/i speakers at reunions, and where the community often convenes for discussions during the school year. Some of our graduates have even gotten married here.
But generations of students know the Chapel primarily as the place where Concord Academy’s singular rite of passage unfolds.
Here in the Chapel, every senior is granted the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes before school begins. The entire school gathers in the Chapel three or more mornings a week to hear a senior, or sometimes a faculty member, address the CA community. These senior Chapel talks, known simply as “Chapels,” have evolved over time from readings and songs to speeches and art performances. Seniors speak to the community on the topic of their choice, without adult approval beforehand. Students share their stories, sing and dance, give thanks, and reveal themselves without judgment.
This is a celebrated moment in a student’s time at CA: Students and faculty alike line the aisles in a “hug line” to congratulate the senior on the occasion. Signs and pictures, handmade by family and students, hang from the walls. Families travel for miles to attend, and to celebrate. These moments are among the most memorable of any student’s CA career.
Hundreds of seniors have shared their stories within the Chapel walls. In addressing new students, Head of School Rick Hardy poses a simple question: “What will your story be? What will you say to our community with your 15 minutes?”
“And in our hearts was the dream of a Chapel standing at the end of the Academy garden.”
Elizabeth B. Hall
Former Head of School