As his first year as Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church nears its close, Matthew Ichihashi Potts — who also serves as the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School — reflected on his time as minister in an interview with The Crimson last week.
Potts discussed his deep commitment to inclusivity at Memorial Church and the steps he has taken to this end, citing the Love United Black Fellowship, which he recently helped launch.
According to Potts, the program is designed to make a space for “the Black church tradition and the religious experiences and expressions of folks from an African American religious tradition.”
Potts shared how his own multi-faith background — as a Christian minister with Buddhist roots on his mother’s side — has informed his approach to fostering dialogue among students and Memorial Church members with diverse backgrounds.
“Everyone wants to ask questions like, ‘What does goodness look like? What does justice look like? How do we care for each other? What's the right way to care for each other?’” Potts said. “And those kinds of conversations are just so much more fruitful and interesting when within a more capacious kind of space of dialogue.”
Potts also expressed his gratitude for the transition back to in-person services, noting that due to pandemic-related restrictions on gathering sizes and other factors, this semester has come with unique challenges.
“Our community felt really great at the beginning, because we were back in the space and back together,” Potts said. “But also it meant that a lot of routines and habits and things needed to be rebuilt.”
“What we do here is gather people, so when there are rules and restrictions around gathering, it just makes that work more challenging,” he said. “I think also more meaningful when we're able to do it — but just more challenging.”
In his capacity as minister, Potts has helped launch two in-person programs this semester with the goal of welcoming students to Memorial Church and extending opportunities through which they can get to know him personally.
The first initiative, “After School Snack,” invites students to meet Potts and his family over some served refreshments. The more recently launched Wednesday Evening Communion offers students the chance to attend Mass and get milkshakes.
Potts said his enthusiasm for working with students extends back ten years prior to his time as a Ph.D. student at the Divinity School, when he also took on the role as a proctor for a first-year dorm. Reflecting back on that experience, the minister said he was thrilled to return to Harvard Yard to assume his new role at Memorial Church — especially given the opportunity to reconnect with students.
“That kind of relationship isn't something I've had since I was a proctor, and that's really fun,” he said.
For Potts, continuing to make Memorial Church a home for many is his ultimate goal.
“We just have lots of different spaces so folks — whatever their religious identity, whatever they're looking for — they feel like there's a way in, and they feel like they have a home here someplace in one of our programs at the church.”
—Rohan Rajeev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.