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Prayer in Practice

In an address on the re-occupancy of Rollins Chapel in 1908 following one of its major renovations, President William Jewett Tucker spoke of the principles underlying its use:

"The service in Rollins Chapel stands distinctly for two things. First for the single idea of religious worship, with its inherent incentives and inspirations toward daily duty... Second, the service in Rollins Chapel stands for the freedom and unity of religious faith."

Throughout the years, religious service, including special occasions such as baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, marriages, and funerals has had priority over all other uses. The Chapel has also been the setting for organ concerts, small ensembles, guest performances, and other events which do not conflict with or contradict the religious nature of the space. Interpretation and implementation of guidelines concerning Rollins are handled by the Tucker Center.

History of Prayer Services at Dartmouth

From the days of Eleazar Wheelock until the 1920s, daily worship was a tradition at Dartmouth College. In the early years, services were held both in the morning and evening, with an additional two sessions of church on Sunday. Worship was first conducted by Eleazar Wheelock in the open air, then in a simple log hut on the southeast corner of the College Green.

Later (1790) it was held in the first College Chapel, which stood just in front of the present site of Thorton Hall, and then in Rollins Chapel's final predecessor, the old chapel in Dartmouth Hall (1828-1885). In 1856, morning chapel was changed from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., and in 1863 daily evening chapel ended.

The tradition of daily worship continued in Rollins Chapel under President Tucker with a brief daily service and a Sunday vesper service, which became the core of the religious life for generations of Dartmouth men. In the fall of 1925, all services, including Sunday vespers, were put on a voluntary basis.

Rollins Chapel Today

Today, the Chapel is utilized as an interfaith space available for Christian, Hindu, and Jewish services, as well as for other student religious populations on campus. In addition to regularly scheduled Ecumenical and Puja services, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Baccalaureate multi-faith Services as well as Jewish High Holiday services, also take place in Rollins.

On a smaller scale, an effort is made to keep the chapel open, accessible, and quiet for a reasonable portion of each day to accommodate individual and group devotion or meditation.

Last Updated: 8/25/15