FROM OUR RECORDS: Circumcision At the Chapel!!



As part of the recently held International Archives Month, The UWI Archives launched 4 Collections that are now available to the public.  In the next few blog entries,  we will be featuring interesting items from each new Collection.  In this entry we feature the Records of the University Chapel.

University Chapel without portico. Plooto courtesy Robert Lancashire

An early photograph of the University Chapel (Image credit: University Museum)

The University Chapel is a special place. Built from the historical ruins of a  rural sugar factory and transported to the Mona Campus, the Chapel is an integral site of University life.  A functional space for non-denominational worship, the Chapel has its own body of records, including a Holy Bible, Visitors Book, Membership Register and Duty Books. The Duty Books interestingly detail the various activities that took place in the Chapel. Listed for 1 January 1966 was a “Circumcision”(under the heading Church Season),  with the Eucharist liturgy conducted, a Sermon preached, and 12 communicants participating.

circumcision at chapel blog

A page of the University Chapel Duty Book 1966 , outlining the daily activities of the Chapel

But what can we make of this Duty Book entry? What is this “Circumcision at the Chapel”? Rev Garth Minott, Anglican University Chaplain in an email to the archives, explains:

Circumcision refers to a surgical procedure on the penis to allow the tip to be exposed. This has been a tradition in the Jewish community for centuries. The practice is attributed to the first procedure done by Abraham both to himself as well as to all the males in his household (Genesis 17). Jesus, the founder of the Christian community, was a Jew as was circumcised. Christians use January 01 to mark the anniversary of this event each year. The observance is no longer referred to as the ‘Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus,’ but, the ‘Feast of the Naming of Jesus’ or the ‘Feast of the Holy Name.’ The emphasis on the change is that the focus should not so much be on circumcision, but on the meaning of the name of Jesus, which is saviour or liberator. Though most Christian communities have watch night services to mark the end of a year and to ‘ring’ in the New Year,’ Anglicans focus on the naming (circumcision) of Jesus.

The Chapel Duty Books offer not just snapshots into the various weddings, funerals, concerts, and  university official services that were held within its hallowed walls. More importantly, these books provide details as to how congregants worshipped, their liturgies, names of preachers, and even the amount of offerings collected. These books outline the history of the Chapel, and its importance to the university and surrounding communities. These Duty Books  have enduring value to the University and earn its rightful place in the UWI Archives.

IAD - Chapel Datamap-01

The ISAD-G Data Map of the Chapel Records.  

The Records of the University Chapel are available for research and consultation at the UWI Archives.


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