Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marquand: WHAT WHAT!!!

Keeping the count alive: four days until you arrive. Who’d a thunk it? I want to take a little time away from planning to introduce you to yet one more amazing person. Last year, I had the pleasure of singing the Marquand Chapel Choir, a group that helps with Wednesday’s Sung Morning Prayer routine in Marquand and also performs the anthem at the Eucharist service each Friday. My director was fantastic. He made schmucks like me sound like we had a voice. I was truly bummed to sing for him at graduation, knowing he was leaving.

Then, news came that this great man was staying in New Haven. Better still, staying to work at Yale. Cherry on top: he had been hired to hold the position of Patrick Evans, who was on sabbatical. So, without building up his amazingness too much, an interview with the man who will help lead music at Marquand, ¬¬¬Colin Britt!

Q: Colin, you’re taking on a new role in our community. How do you envision that role?
A: I serve as acting director of chapel music, and I also provide/supervise some of the logistical work in chapel. I deal with bulletin creation, some of the music copyright record keeping, and some work in the space itself, such as furnishing music resources and moving instruments.

Q: Nice, safe answer. Why are you here and not elsewhere?
A: A good place to start is the fact that I am coming directly to this job after a year as Marquand chapel choir director, where I developed a strong relationship with Marquand and grew to love the people here. So when I was approached about the job it seemed like a natural continuation of that work, and a good opportunity professionally because it’s a renowned institution with a very successful musical program.

At the same time, I had become so attached to the spirit of the place, the people, and the worship community. Last year I found myself not only attending the choir services, but if I possibly could I would go just to find a sense of balance.

Q: You are changing from one role on the Marquand Team to another, more visible role. Do you think this will be a difficult transition?
A: One thing that I liked about Patrick’s and my relationship last year is that he gave me a lot of freedom and liberty with choosing music, and he didn’t attempt to involve himself in how I directed. He let me do the job, while offering to act as a sounding board for ideas. I appreciated that because it allowed me the freedom to discover how I could best contribute to the worship style. So I was well-prepared for this position.

That said, it is a transition because I’m now more involved in the planning. Before, I had very limited involvement in choosing hymns or leading song, and for the most part I was one of many involved in planning. This will be a much more involved and more present role in the community. From a logistical standpoint, it’s a lot more work preparing bulletins, arranging music, etc.

Q: You now hold the position of potential boss of the new Marquand chapel choir leader, Michael Sansoni. You both were in school together, and you and Michael co-led the chapel choir. Now that you have more technical authority, will you lord over Michael?
A: Good Lord, I don’t Lord over Michael.

Q: What is your vision for this year?
A: From a musical standpoint, I believe that what Marquand does best is provide an open and welcoming space for all who attend, and one of the ways that it does that is through the act of song. And because singing is so central in Marquand, and because music from all over the world is used in such versatile ways, I feel that two goals for this year will be to continue that communal act of joining together in song and to explore more styles and genres.

My biggest goal for the year is to continue what has been started and led so expertly by Patrick and the music team, while finding ways that my particular voice can contribute in a unique way.

Q: Many people on the blog have spoken about the centrality for many people of Marquand to the YDS experience. Can Marquand live up to the expectations?
A: Absolutely.

Q: What is the greatest challenge to Marquand for this year?
A: Our challenge is to maintain the very successful ecumenical worship and the role that the chapel plays in our community, and to contribute to this legacy without carbon copying it. That’s both liberating and challenging. Siobhán and Patrick leave big shoes to fill, but we’re bringing to these roles our own unique strengths, experiences, and personalities. I, for one, do not own any Hawaiian shirts. (To see the contrasting styles of Colin and his predecessor Patrick, see the shot to the left.)

Q: How open, then, are you to student input for music?
A: Very open. One of the ways Marquand works is that it’s an opportunity for students to be directly involved in planning worship services, and there are many ways that can happen. Hypothetically, if a student preacher is giving a sermon for a worship service, they will be asked if there are particular music selections they want involved. If the music is appropriate—context, language, etc.—chances are we can use it in some way. That being said, we probably don’t want ‘Here I am Lord’ sung five times in one week.

Q: How would you advise new students to enter/treat the space of Marquand?
A: I hope they will find it welcoming, but expect to be challenged in their understanding of the possibilities of what worship can be. I also hope they will feel empowered to find new ways to share their own voice in the community.

Q: Any plugs for music?
A: If any students are looking for ways to be involved musically, there are several outlets. The two choirs that perform regularly are the chapel and gospel choirs. Gospel rehearses every other Monday evening (first service is the 14th of Sept), and Chapel choir every Sunday evening.

Also, if a student regularly plays a musical instrument in their worship community, they should contact me if they want to offer their gifts to our worship services. My email address is .

Q: You are a fashionable man, do you have any advice for students?
A: Marquand has been, and will continue to be, a come-as-you-are community. So bring your own style and what you’re comfortable in, but the shirts and shoes rule might apply.
Q: So pants optional?
A: Actually, shoes are more optional than pants, now that I think of it. And would you tell all my friends from high school and college that you think I’m “fashionable”?

Q: Last thoughts?
A: The most important thing to remember about Marquand is that we want people to share and give to the community from their own traditions as they are comfortable, and that while not everything that happens in the chapel will be familiar, it’s our goal to welcome everyone and offer something new to every person who comes in.

"Life Somewhere:" Furnishing Your New Haven Home

I don't know about you, but when I moved to New Haven, I gave away the majority of my furniture, because it wouldn't fit in my U-Haul Trailer. When I arrived at my new apartment, I didn't have a bed, a desk, or any living room furniture. Sure, I could have gone out and bought all new furniture, but I was now on a graduate student budget (which tends to preclude shopping sprees). However, there are some options to easily (and cheaply) furnish your new home, whether it's in stately Bellamy Manor or East Rock, which Alex and I heard referred to as "the ghetto" yesterday (for the record, if houses routinely sell for over $100,000, I don't think you can classify a neighborhood as a ghetto).

For those of you with a little ingenuity, there's an Ikea in New Haven (450 Sargent Drive). Some people cite this as a reason to consider New Haven a city. Still, I think the possums (which I, too, have seen; the world's biggest possum lives in a tree near my garage) and bears may call that into question. Regardless of whether you're now living in a city, we have a stalwart outpost of Swedish do-it-yourself home projects that will offer you cheap furniture and housewares.

People in New Haven are beginning to clean out their closets. Look for tag sales going on throughout the city when you arrive (depending on where you're from, you may know these as "garage sales" or "yard sales").

Freecycle and Craigslist are always options.

Finally, there's the BTFO Give Away Room, located in the basement of scenic Fisher Hall. Current and former students have donated their gently-used items, which you'll be able to pick up during BTFO. There's some great stuff down there, for the record. Also for the record, Alex and I will not help you carry stuff out. We carried stuff in; it's up to you to get it out on your own (or with help that is not us).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Marquand...say WHAT!!!

Hey all:

Now it's my pleasure to introduce you to something that many people have talked about in interviews: Marquand Chapel. Marquand is the main chapel at YDS, and every weekday at 10:30 it holds an ecumenical service. As students you will have an active role (if you wish) in leading, participating, and planning services. YDS has a million and seven ways to get involved, and a thousand and six ways to worship. From 10:30am - 11:30am, and again from 12:30pm - 1:30pm every day, there are no classes scheduled on Holy Hill. Instead, we worship and eat together.

The 10:30am Marquand service is ecumenical, and takes a very different form each and every day. The only constants are that Wednesdays are always sung morning prayer, and Fridays always feature a Eucharistic celebration of some kind. Lets take a gander at what went on one random week in the past (direct from the Q Source, our weekly newsletter that hasn't been updated online since 2009):

Monday: "The Healing Balm of God's Word through Song and Dance" Liturgical Dance led by Kathleen Turner with the YDS Liturgical Dance Workshop and the CT Chapter of National Liturgical Dance Network
Tuesday: Quaker Meeting led by YDS fellow Sarah Ruden
Wednesday: Sung Morning Prayer: Songs of the Americas led by Patrick Evans
Thursday: A Bright Week Service in the Byzantine Tradition
Friday: Community Eucharist for the End of Term with Emilie Townes, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, preaching, and Dale Peterson, Dean of Students, presiding.

When service is done at 11:00, there is Coffee Hour in the Common Room. Grab some tea, coffee, an apple or doughnut, perhaps a granola bar, and talk with friends for a bit.

At 12:30pm we have "lunch hour." This is a great time to catch up in the refectory, meet with professors, go to The Carts down the hill a bit, or take part in a meeting. As the Div School does not have classes at this time, groups on campus usually try to hold meetings at this time. Often, this means eating and working at the same time.

Marquand, Coffee hour, and lunch hour for me are some of the greatest things about YDS for me. Other than BTFO (shameless plug), these have helped me feel a sense of community more than other events. Day-in, day-out, knowing that time is set to be with my colleagues and professors and staff support is both comforting and liberating. I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A BTFO Update

You should be receiving this in your e-mail inbox soon, but in case the e-mail that you registered for BTFO with is no longer working, we're posting this on the blog as well.


In one week, we’ll all be gathering at the Divinity School for BTFO! We’re both very excited about this, and we can’t wait until you get here. As you may have read on the blog (, we created your small groups last week. From this point on, we’re putting the finishing touches on the week’s programming.

We’ve just got a few reminders for you.

1) Registration begins at 2:30p.m. on Monday. This should take a few minutes; you’ll pick up your information packets and name tags, register for a mailbox, and have your picture taken by the Dean of Students’ Office. This means that some of you will have to show up before 3:45…

2) Please bring a water bottle and reusable dishes. YDS has made a commitment toward environmental sustainability and responsible stewardship. We’re trying to cut down on the amount of disposable plates, cups, and utensils that we use during BTFO. Remember, if you’re bringing reusable dishes, you’ll get to be first in line at all of our meals. We will have a limited supply of dishes and silverware in the Give Away room, which will be handed out on a first-come-first-served basis.

3) Dress in layers. It’s almost fall in New England, which generally means hot days and cool nights. We will be out on the Quad after sunset, and it will cool down rapidly. Plus, Niebuhr Hall (where we will be having panels) is affectionately referred to as “the icebox.”

4) Family members are welcome at most BTFO activities, including meals. We’ll be providing childcare from 8:45a.m—5:30p.m. Tuesday—Friday. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate any more children, so if you have not RSVPed for childcare yet, your best bet is the Yale babysitting service ( If you have RSVPed for childcare, make sure you bring your insurance and primary care physician information with you when you check in at BTFO registration on Monday.

5) Finally, if you’re going to be in town Sunday, August 22, the McDougal Center and Hall of Graduate Studies is sponsoring a $9 all-you-can-eat meal for new graduate and professional students (that’s you!) at Thai Pan Asian (1150 Chapel Street). Just look for the McDougal Fellow handing out wristbands at the door, and tell him or her that you’re a new Divinity student.


Josh Rodriguez
Alex Peterson

Monday, August 16, 2010

IT: Connecting with Yale

Good afternoon, everyone.

One week from now, all your smiling faces will be sitting in the Common Room, happy-go-lucky and carefree. Perhaps.

I will admit that since the blog on Dale Mail, several people have asked about technology and connecting. Being rather clueless about technology (this is my first blog, still have never Tweeted, still fondly remember my Mac LCII for its bulkiness and unwieldiness that allowed me to figure out what to do as it took 5 minutes to start up), I have turned to outside help. Meet Josh Kammerer, who will walk you through connectivity. He went through Hebrew with me, and in that struggle, a trust was formed...he won't steer you any more off-base than I would, I can assure you of that.

"I, Josh K., your resident student, Durkheimian Techno-shaman (aka Student IT Tech), would like to provide you with some techno-rites that you can use to protect yourself against the wrath of the technology gods. If you follow my ritual prescriptions to a “T,” you won’t have to worry about getting struck by lightning,1 being overtaken by technological pestilences (computer viruses), succumbing to severe seasonal technological famines (computers operating very slowly), being attacked by the temple guards (getting fined by the RIAA), or remaining cut off from the blessings of the technology gods (severed from access to our blessed networks).

That being said, I’m going to provide a series of four pdf files to help you identify the necessary steps you need to take to prepare yourself for the Fall, which is, by the way, when all Hell breaks loose on earth (that was a cheesy Biblical joke for those who were paying attention).

When you arrive for BTFO, I will be manning a table somewhere, using my shamanic giftedness to appease the gods and get you connected to our networks (Stage 1 Connectivity). But for me to be able to do my job, I need you to read what I’ve just written and take the following steps. If you fail at any of these steps, we won’t burn you as a heretic on the Peace Pole (even though Denys Turner might like to); however, we might ask you to bake us cookies after we get you connected."

File one: The Gods, in fact, are crazy--preparing yourself to connect to Yale's networks before arrival

File two: How to foil a foreign spy--how to access Yale's resources remotely

File three: Tips and tricks to avoid getting eaten by the Kraken--general stuff about Yale computing

File four: How to catch a digital leprechaun--getting connected to Yale's encrypted (and preferred) wireless network, once you arrive

P.S. This is Alex again. Try these steps, they are designed to make it easier once you arrive. If they don't work, then try again (I know I mess things up, don't think you don't). If it still doesn't work, wait until you get here, and we'll go from there!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Village on a Hill: Introductions: Dean Emilie Townes

Good evening, all:

After almost a week away on vacation to Nebraska (no cell reception and a broken I really had the chance to actually be away), I returned this week to my wonderful BTFO job. Seriously, we're less than 10 full days away from BTFO. I for one am thrilled, and anxious. Best way to deal with anxiety: get busy. Josh and I have been working hard, and we hope that you'll enjoy the results.

Here is one of the last installments of my 'Introductions' section. Dean Emilie Townes is a person you will all know soon (if you don't recognize her name already), and is a wonderfully kind person who cares a tremendous amount about the students. I can say that about nearly everyone at the Div School, of course, so understand that the same comments apply to all I've interviewed thus far. But still. So here you are, my interview with Dean Townes.

Q: Dean Townes, you’ve studied at U Chicago and Northwestern, and taught at Union. Why do you find your home at YDS?
A: I always function on ‘call.’ All my teaching jobs have been because it has been clear to me that God is calling me to this place at this time, and the same is true here. It was a surprise, I was not planning on ever being at Yale, it was not on my radar screen, but when the first call came from Dean Bartlett about teaching a course on “black something” I was like ‘sure.’ I did, and found there were students interested in what I taught. I also found myself teaching here rather than simply managing the classroom, which is what I was doing at Union. I’m a teacher, and I need to be where I’m a teacher, and Yale became that place. There are faculty here that I can work on projects with, students that are interested in looking at structures behind the issues and how we can be faithful responders to the good and bad in society, and I thought this oddly enough has become home. I look forward to coming in to school and seeing what will happen each day. I often say to staff in emails to staff: life here is never dull. We may be New England proper, but we are not dull.

Q: What do you hope for this year?
A: We recently started a long-range planning and self-study process for reaccreditation, and I look forward to seeing what we find for our future, what we will look like. Harry has asked us to see what we want to be in 2020. How will we get there? How will we keep doing the assessment and evaluation? We are building a process where the whole school is involved, not just a few people meeting in secret. And much like any other institution at Yale, we have a lot going on, and not a whole lot of people who know all that is going on. Wouldn’t it be great to know at one moment all that is going on? I think we could make wise choices what this means for education, the church, individuals, and how we can be really live into being hearers and doers of the Word in the fullest sense, as opposed to kinda hearing, kinda doing. We can really be engaged. This year is a year of reflection and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure I’ll say the same thing in December, but right now it’s exciting.

Q: What about students here makes you laugh? Shake your head?
A: Yale students at Div School tend to be exceedingly earnest—and I use that in the best sense of the word. I find that endearing in the student body, that most of you come here because you are trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing, and how faith and religion plays or does not play into that. You ask hard questions of yourselves and teachers, and on your best days you actually listen to each other. When I watch that unfold in chapel, or class, or the halls, or wherever we are gathered, and see the best part of that, it is endearing. To watch that unwillingness to compromise because it’s the easy way, when I see you searching for the truth in this, and how we get there: I find myself smiling when I see those moments.

Now, when you’re not doing that I’m not smiling, and wish you would chill out and be more gracious. The staff takes a big hit when you’re not being gracious, but when you’re at your best it’s quite delightful to behold.

Q: Do people take themselves too seriously here?
A: Yes. Yes. Yes. This is a school with far too many type A personalities, from faculty, staff, students, admin, you name it, we tend to be type A. Luckily, my parents were both college administrators and teachers, and they taught me from example: if you can’t amuse yourself at what you do sometimes, you’re in trouble. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, realize that nothing should be so serious that we can’t see the humor in any day, then we’re in trouble. So yeah, you take yourselves too seriously. You’re too grade-driven. It doesn’t make you better students, or content students. We worry as faculty about how you take grades too seriously and don’t enjoy learning, which defeats the life of the mind. Learning should be a great joy, not drudgery. One of my happiest moments is being able to sit and read a book just to see what an author is saying. You can do that and be in a class… believe me, it is possible! My hope is that some of y’all will take a chill pill. I know that phrase is out of style, but it’s the only one I can think of that’s printable.

Q: What is the most common question from first years, and what do you answer (just to get it out of the way)?
A: How do I get an H? is the question more than any other one. The answer: always do your best work. That doesn’t guarantee an H, but that’s how you get one. In other words, I follow Socratic thought, because there’s no answer to that question. There are too many faculty and different things required of different disciplines, that there is no set answer. Pay attention to faculty on first day of class, when the syllabus is being discussed. If the professor is speaking for more than a few minutes about it, you better pay attention, because they’re trying to tell you something, including what constitutes excellence in the class.

Q: Where is your favorite place on the quad?
A: Marquand. It’s where I go to center myself every day. If I’m on campus, I’m in chapel at 10:30, and I build my day around being in chapel. This place can be such a pressure cooker that I need that time where what I’m doing is trying to be closer to God—as opposed to the next task, or the next meeting, or the next class. Just simply being. And the chapel changes so much during the course of the day because of how the sun moves across the chapel; it can be so many different things. It’s a place of quiet mystery, and I appreciate that.

Q: Any advice for incoming students? Fashion tips? Places to eat?
A: I don’t’ give fashion tips. I give fashion tickets, but not tips. One of my favorite places to eat on a student budget is Mama Mary’s Soul Food on Whalley. Lots of food at Mama Mary’s, you can get two or three meals’ worth of food on a plate. It’s cost effective, and because they now practice healthy cooking (not lard or pork seasoning), it’s even reasonably healthy. Friendly, good food, and you determine how much food by the size of the plate. Right across the street is Edge of the Woods Grocery Store, so you want to be noble and get really healthy food you can go across the street for that later in the same trip.

Q: Anything else?
A: I think it’s this: don’t stop asking questions. Be an active part of what happens at BTFO, but you just get so much info over the course of a week, that at the end it sounds like Snoopy (wah wah wah). Continue to ask questions after BTFO—even during BTFO! People don’t mind repeating themselves for those trying to understand. This is not an easy school to know what you need to do, so asking questions is one of the best things available to you.

We Sorted That

After two days, several sharpies, lots of Sorting Hat jokes, and pie, Alex and I, with help from the beautiful and talented Melissa Pucci, have created small groups. Wouldn't you like to know if you were placed in Gryffindor?

Don't worry; you'll find out soon enough.