New chaplain brings spirituality, religion to campus

Rev. Anne Gardner facilitates religious activities on campus in her second year


Vox Populi

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, students and parents light menorah candles for the fourth night of Hanukkah at the celebration in Feldman-Horn Gallery at the upper school. Rev. Anne Gardner organized the event with parents from the HW Jewish Families Association (HWJFA).

Rev. Anne Gardner

Spirituality and religion, Harvard-Westlake (HW) Chaplain Anne Gardner explains, are areas of knowledge all students should have the opportunity to experience. Gardner, in her second year at HW, is in charge of facilitating religious activities on campus. 

“One of the gifts of being part of the HW community is the opportunity for our students to learn, grow, and develop in so many ways,” Gardner said. “But students also have the chance to expand their knowledge of the world’s languages, cultures and beliefs.”

Gardner holds a weekly chapel for community members of every faith, open to students, families, faculty and alumni. Services are held every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. on Zoom, with an exception for the first Tuesday of the month, during which Morning Prayer is held in-person in St. Saviour’s Chapel on the Upper School Campus. Initiated with a brief text reading, the service provides attendees with the opportunity to begin their day with music, prayer and reflection. 

 “It’s specifically designed to appeal to a wide range of spiritual perspectives,” Gardner said. “All are welcome”.

The Chaplain reiterated that spirituality and religion are not limited to those of a certain faith. “As the school’s chaplain I am here to serve the portion of our community who are people of faith. But I also take seriously my charge to expand the community’s religious literacy and to be available pastorally for anyone seeking support.”

Gardner herself leads and participates in a multitude of spiritual gatherings. In September, Gardner participated in a gathering inside the school’s Sukkah, celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The same month, Gardner also prepared a remembrance gathering for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Gardner offered a remote Blessing of the Animals by distributing gift packages and blessings to faculty and staff for their pets. And in December, Gardner co-hosted both a Hanukkah celebration in Feldman-Horn Gallery and the longstanding tradition of Carols & Lessons in St. Saviour’s Chapel at the upper school.

The Hanukkah candle lighting, organized with the assistance of Karen Bender ’84 (parent of Shoshie ’22), was Gardner’s favorite experience of the year. 

“These ancillary efforts are part of my way to creatively find new and different ways to minister,” Gardner said.

Gardner also expressed excitement for upcoming spiritual opportunities. On Tuesday, Feb. 15, morning chapel is set to host Yale University’s Buddhist chaplain Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim in observance of Parinirvana Day. 

“I am always looking for new ways to tend to our community,” Gardner said, “including outside of traditional services and clubs.”