No. 145 | Traditions

Chapel Gatherings Inspire

Once a place for religious doctrine, always a place for cultivating character

In 1874, boys began attending local churches on Sundays and walked to services through the fields and across a narrow wooden bridge to St. Thomas’s Church in Garrison or to Stone Chapel off Reisterstown Road. During the week, chapel services would take place before breakfast and consisted of the singing of two gospel hymns, a Bible reading, and a prayer. Colonel Allan also read from newspapers or recently published books. When Tagart Chapel was built (story No. 43), pastors from St. Thomas came to McDonogh and served as the School’s chaplain. 

By 1944, the student body was comprised of boys of many different faiths (200 Episcopalians, 150 Methodists, 120 Catholics, 50 Lutherans, 30 Christian Scientists, 25 Jews, and 35 boys of other faiths), so the School arranged for religious instructors from different denominations to teach special classes on Monday afternoons. The special denominational classes ended in 1960 because too many denominations stopped sending instructors and others could not control their groups. As a result, the School reverted to Monday chapel services. 

In 1980, McDonogh established a Department of Religion to offer students the opportunity to learn about all faith traditions. John Grega was hired to teach and to serve in the chaplain role for holidays, celebrations, and memorial services.

Today, Chapel is an integral part of the Lower School Cultivating Character program in which students focus on themes such as Embracing Diversity, Developing Empathy, Advocating for Self and Others, and Expressing Gratitude. The themes are explored during class and featured in monthly chapel gatherings. The annual Blankets of Hope chapel which focuses on empathy features poems of hope written and read by students and the presentation of student-made cozy fleece blankets to The Red Devils, an organization supporting breast cancer patients and their families. 

Learn more about McDonogh School's rich history by visiting the archives online.

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