Student Life

Spiritual Life

Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols 2023

Groton is committed to nurturing the traditions of all students, regardless of their spirituality, depth of religious experience, or upbringing. Groton warmly welcomes and supports people of any faith.
Though founded in the Episcopal tradition and still affiliated with the Episcopal Church, Groton has broadened its religious and spiritual offerings and meets the needs of a varied family. St. John's Chapel invites all community members to explore and deepen their spirituality, whether through quiet meditation, traditional prayer, or a beautiful piece of music.

On four weekday mornings, the school begins its day with a Chapel service; this morning respite strengthens the sense of community and offers stillness and reflection before a busy day. Many find their time in Chapel among their most cherished daily moments at Groton, a period of comfort, challenge, peace, and rejuvenation.


The weekday Chapel program is led by our chaplain, an Episcopal priest, and the Spiritual Life prefects, who represent our various religious traditions. The Chapel strives to be inviting, inclusive, and a safe place in which to strengthen the foundation of the community.

A typical weekday service opens with prayer, followed by a short reading that reflects anything from the speaker’s religious tradition to a favorite novel. Next, a student, faculty member, alumna/us, or guest delivers a Chapel talk. Whether funny, insightful, challenging, or touching, the talks provide a window to a deeper presence that daily routines sometimes obscure. The weekday service concludes with communal singing, often a hymn, sometimes followed by musical postludes performed by students.

Students are required to attend a weekend service each week; they choose among the services offered that best fit their own tradition or ethos. Many students from various Christian denominations attend a Sunday service in the Episcopal tradition at St. John’s Chapel. Jewish students often choose to observe a Friday evening Sabbath service; Muslim students gather in prayer and study; Hindu students gather for puja and study; Buddhist students (and many who consider themselves spiritual but not religious) find quiet time for meditation during a weekly sangha; and many Roman Catholic students attend Mass at the local parish.
    • The Chapel

      A Henry Vaughan Gothic Revival masterpiece, St. John’s Chapel hosts weekday and Sunday services, as well as a number of concerts and seasonal services throughout the year. The Chapel also is home to a notable Aeolian Skinner pipe organ and tower bells that attract bell-ringers from around the world, as well as the school's own student bell-ringers.

Why Spirituality?

Spiritual life has been an intrinsic part of a Groton education since the school’s founding. Today, while the approach has evolved, the importance of spirituality remains. "Groton School, like all schools in the Episcopal tradition, understands that spiritual life and practice remain at the heart of being human," said School Chaplain Allison Read, "and that student well-being and wholeness depend on growing awareness and attention to religious practices and spiritual heritagetheir own as well as others'."  
"You don't have to believe in a certain religion, but you can't walk into that building without feeling that there is something larger than yourself."

Chapel Talks

Chapel talks cover a broad array of topics, both light and serious, historic and topical, philosophical and humorous. The content is up to the speaker. Chapel talks are given mostly by Sixth Formers, but also by faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and guests.

Chapel talks allow our entire community to reflect, as individuals, on topics that may affect us all. During the talks, we sometimes ponder large and challenging questions; often these morning talks inspire thoughtful conversation and debate long afterward. Students learn that fundamental questions posed in a spiritual setting are not confined to a chapel, or to courses in biblical studies or ethics, but are instead meant to be considered over the course of a lifetime.

Chapel Talks Archive

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Lessons & Carols

The Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, presented yearly at Groton since 1929, originated in England in 1880. It was revised and expanded by the staff of King's College, Cambridge and presented in its current format in 1918 (partially honoring those killed in the First World War). Students, regardless of their own religious customs, embrace Lessons & Carols for its beauty and its window onto the history and tradition of Groton School.

It is thought that Twining Lynes, Groton's first organist and choirmaster, heard one of the earlier services in 1918 and instituted it at Groton years later. The service’s original intention, to show the development of the loving purpose of God from Creation to the incarnation through the reading of lessons and the singing of carols, remains today.