Webbies, go to Senior Chapel Talks!

The+sunlight+shines+through+the+trees+surrounding+the+Vivian+Webb+Chapel.

Laura Haushalter

The sunlight shines through the trees surrounding the Vivian Webb Chapel.

Creating a sense of community while we are physically separated has been one of the biggest challenges that Webb has grappled with over the past year.  

How do we create the bonds that we would feel if we were sharing a physical place? How do we build an inclusive community? How do we support and understand one another? 

Part of the answer to these questions lies in one of the most important and historical traditions at Webb  the Senior Chapel Talk.   

Each member of the graduating class is invited to give a chapel talk. The talks can reflect on students’ time at Webb, a deeply personal story, a dive into a topic that interests them, and any topic in-betweenThe chapel talk is a senior‘ gift to the community. The chance to speak to the entire community helps fulfill Webb’s mission to “act with honor and moral courage; lead with distinction; serve with a generous spirit.” It is a reciprocal gift. 

My favorite part of Webb has always been Senior Chapel Talks. As a freshman, I sat in the very last row of the chapel. My seat was not even a pew but rather a folding chair that was always freezing cold.  

I sat with my advisor, Ms. Rogstad, to my left and Kaityln De Armas to my right. Together with the rest of my advisory, I was a part of the very last group to leave the chapel. Throughout my freshman year, I repeatedly vacillated whether to hug or high-five the speaker, guaranteeing many awkward moments at the end of the line.  

Then, per Webb tradition, my sophomore year, I progressed forward in the chapel; I traded the folding chair for a pew with a decent view of the speaker. With my new location came a new appreciation for the talks. Those speaking were no longer complete strangers but people I had shared a school with for a yearThen, junior year rolled around, and my chapel seat changed again, as I got even closer to the podiumAs a junior, those speaking were my peers in my classes.  

This year, I sit in front of my computer instead of in the pews in the chapel. This year, like everything else, chapel talks had to change. They moved online. And while the constraints of the virtual world are felt, the spirit of the chapel talk remains the same.   

Sitting in the chapel was the first time I really felt like a member of the Webb community. I do not remember the name of the girl who gave the first address I heard, nor do I remember word for word what she said, but I remember listening to her and feeling amazed. I was amazed by the mature, strong women speaking in front of me, a woman that through my four years at Webb I would hope to become.  

Over the past year as a community, we have watched horrific scenes of racism, scary effects of climate change, attacks on US democracya global pandemic killing thousands, and so much more. Through these scary and unpredictable times, I find comfort in listening to the inspiring words of my classmates, even if they are sharing their stories through Zoom. 

It takes courage to speak to a group of people. In chapel talks, seniors are vulnerable. They share an important piece of themselves with the community. Through the vulnerability that seniors express in chapel talks, the community becomes more cohesive. It ias if the ability to let your guard down and open up serves as some kind of social glue, allowing us to form bonds with our fellow classmates and teachers. 

The Webb schedule is grueling: the days are long, and now it feels as if the fatigue of a year of Zoom is hitting us even more. After a day of long classes and tiring afternoon activities, joining one more Zoom meeting is the last thing you would want to do. But the Senior Chapel Talks are not like a normal Zoom meeting; it is a special opportunity. Senior Chapel talks are one of the few Zoom meetings that I still look forward to joining. 

However, with each virtual chapel talk, less and less Webbies attend and that inot okay. If we were in person, Senior Chapel Talks would be mandatory, the whole school community would be sitting together and supporting the speaker.  

Virtual Senior Chapel Talks are not mandatory, and speakers are left wondering if people are going to show up. Seniors should not have to worry if they are going to have an audience.  

Zoom is not the same, and there is no comparison to having the entire VWS and WSC communities sit in the physical space of the Vivian Webb Chapel. But the Zoom talks offer us something almost as valuable  a sense of community amidst a global pandemic 

When we come together on Zoom to support the speaker, we get to see one another. Senior Chapel Talks are one of the few opportunities during the week that day and night students get to be on the same Zooms.    

Chapel talks mean something. The stories the seniors choose to share deserve to have an audience. Go listen to them.