The Washington Post last week profiled Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel services, one of the iconic traditions in all of HBCU culture. For its spiritual impact on students and community, and its platform for leading Black voices across social, political and cultural planes, the Rankin Chapel services remain a strong link between HBCU necessity past and present.
Similar stories are present at Black colleges throughout the nation. The Rankin Chapel, along with Tougaloo’s Woodworth Chapel, Sisters Chapel at Spelman and Allen Chapel at Paul Quinn are campus centers for spiritual enlightenment and community mobilization. In an age where morals and values are overwhelmed by popular culture and negative images of HBCUs, the value of the HBCU chapel is more pressing than ever.
Given the historic link between church and HBCU, is there room for the HBCU chapel to reemerge as the campus “living room?” Through HBCU chapels, can we reinvigorate the partnership between Black colleges and Black churches to foster a new commitment for financial and ethical support? Schools like Saint Paul’s College and Morris Brown College are facing critical times over the next few months, but while churches have lent support in the form of checks, have they championed for these schools from their pulpits and media reach?
How can spirituality and faith-based community be reconnected to HBCU culture, to better benefit school and student? Howard, over the 120 years of its chapel’s existence, seems to have the best command of the partnership. Can others follow suit before it’s too late?