Architecture & Chapel Design
Construction was begun with the breaking of ground on Easter afternoon, April 21, 1962. In preparing the site, five houses were removed from the ground, including the former residence of the late Dr. William H. Parkes, who deeded his residence to the university some years before and at that time expressed his hope that one day that location would serve as the place upon which a university chapel could be constructed.
The buildings were designed by Edward Grey Halstead, senior partner in the firm of Jensen and Halstead, Architects and Engineers, Chicago. The contractor was the Gerhardt F. Meyne Company of Chicago.
The Jeanne Vail Meditation Chapel, dedicated to the memory of the daughter of Mrs. Foster McGaw, has a seating capacity of 125 and is used for private meditation, worship services and weddings.
Parkes Hall contains the offices of the university chaplains and the chapel staff and has a lecture-social hall, kitchen, Sunday School room, and classrooms.
The chapel has a seating capacity of just over 700 on the main floor of the nave. The style of the building is contemporary Gothic, providing a blend of the traditional and modern. The exterior is an adaptation of Gothic architecture. However, the interior is, in many ways, contemporary. The undulating side walls, the design of the Holy Table, the chandeliers, and the design of the pews reflect a contemporary style. In addition, the stained glass windows are clearly of a contemporary design.
Located in the chancel area are located the pulpit (on the left), the Holy Table (free standing at the center), and the lectern (on the right). The wood carvings on the pulpit, lectern, and communion rails were hand-carved by Mr. John Torell from designs prepared by Edward Grey Halstead. The carvings incorporate traditional biblical symbols such as the grape and vine, the oak leaf and acorn, and the rose.
On the pulpit, there is a series of shields reading from left to right and moving from one panel to the next, containing the words of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry, when he read from the sixty-first chapter of the Book of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).
The wood carving on the shields of the lectern is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians and is the university’s motto:
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there by any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The base and the top of the Holy Table are made of comb-grained oak. Deeply etched into the plexiglass face are the symbols of “Alpha” on the left with a fish superimposed (a traditional symbol of Christ) and on the right the chalice and wafer, which are the symbols of Holy Communion and which are superimposed on the “Omega.” In the center of the plexiglass face, accented in gray, is the symbol of the Holy Spirit represented in the outstretched wings of the descending dove.
The cross stands just outside the chancel window in the meditation court. It is intended to be visible through the chancel window. Seen, as it is, through the chancel window, there is portrayed the reality and mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. We do not fully understand God’s action in the resurrection, but see it symbolized here “through a glass darkly.” The cross is of solid Douglas fir timber, standing thirty-five feet in height. The arms of the cross total twelve feet in length. The cross is, of course, fully visible in the Meditation Courtyard.