Fall Term Information for Phillips Academy Families

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Gina Finocchiaro '97
March 29, 2021

Stepping into my turn

As an alumna and now interim Protestant chaplain, Gina Finocchiaro knows the continuum of the Andover call
by Rev. Gina Finocchiaro '97

I have been offering worship for the Protestant community weekly via Zoom this past year. I usually set up in the main sanctuary in Cochran Chapel, careful to include a background view of the beautiful space that is recognizable to many. Most Sunday nights, it is a casual gathering of a small group—students logging in from dorm rooms or home. Michael Belcher on the keyboard from home.

Sometime in the fall I relocated my perch to the balcony, which provided a sweeping vista of the entire chapel—even better.

As I came into the balcony, I ran into a wall of memories. I was a day student on a near-full scholarship. My family never felt comfortable participating in Andover events. My senior spring we had an argument the night of Baccalaureate. My parents did not want to come, and I had to be on campus early for rehearsal. I drove myself. They never came.

I played with the handbell choir that night from the balcony. After the program was over, I went back upstairs to pack up the bells. Music instructor Carolyn Skelton and I exchanged some sweet goodbyes. By the time I left, I was pretty sure I was the last one out. I sat on the steps to take in a view of the setting sun across the Great Lawn and I gave in to my emotions, feeling safely anonymous and alone. And then Barbara Landis Chase approached.

It was too late; I could not regain my composure that quickly. The head of school sat on the steps with me for a bit. I do not remember what she said. What I remember is her presence.

Twenty-three years later, I walk from a basement apartment in a dormitory named in her honor as I come and go from the chapel.

I looked out over the balcony and felt the weight of the ages: the hopes and fears of all the years. I was filled with tremendous gratitude for the Andover souls and spirits that had guided me through tender years and well into adulthood.

Over the years, I have returned to Cochran to attend a few events, to guest-preach on a Sunday, and to participate in a couple of reunions. I was honored to share the chancel with Rev. Zaeder to memorialize English instructor Jean St. Pierre, and I have even tucked into the empty building occasionally for quiet, reflective time.

That fall night, before I began my next “Zoom” worship, I looked out over the balcony and felt the weight of the ages: the hopes and fears of all the years. I was filled with tremendous gratitude for the Andover souls and spirits that had guided me through tender years and well into adulthood. I was aware of the precious “firsts” I experienced on this campus. Viscerally, I also knew the continuum of the Andover call.

It is now my turn to step into the flow—to stand alongside students coming into their own voice, struggling to know who they are, learning many things, challenging many perspectives, forming habits and character that will forever make them who they are becoming.

For however long, it is my turn. What an honor.

The Reverend Gina Finocchiaro ’97 is PA’s interim Protestant chaplain; she began this assignment in August 2020. Prior to Andover, Finocchiaro served churches in New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut, and was the community chaplain at Brewster Academy.

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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