Every day as I walk from the parking lot to my office, I see new progress on the Chapel renovation. The construction fascinates me. Watching a pile of bricks become an arch or a muddy trench transform into a sidewalk is magical somehow. The architect and construction workers make it all seem so easy. I know it’s not. Before one brick was laid, It took time, commitment, and generosity on the part of donors, the board of trustees, and the entire school community to make this renewal possible.
The Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd is central to my understanding and love of this place. When I interviewed in late July, thirteen years ago, I was wowed by the campus. The VPAC was an amazing space. The columns lining Perkins fit perfectly with my midwestern, romantic image of a southern private school. It wasn’t until the second day of my interview that I toured the chapel. My guide took me to the door, unlocked it, and suggested I experience it alone.
Light was pouring in through the rose window. The air was still. I could hear the echo of my footsteps as I walked up the central aisle. I sat in a pew and took some time to breathe. This was a place of presence and peace. I was home.
As my time at Episcopal drew on, I came to know the Chapel intimately. How the interplay of voices changed when moved from here to there, or to remember that the air conditioning should be turned off before a service. I remember the pride I felt watching my students perform the Mozart Requiem as the chapel reverberated with the power of pure compositional genius. I recall chats with Dr. Houghton that spanned every topic imaginable, and sitting in Father Howe’s office, laughing so hard tears ran down my face. When dark events occurred in my life, I would seek out the silence and shelter it provided and the perspective it allowed. It’s always been more than a building. It is the heart of Episcopal.
Soon the chapel will be renewed for a new generation of Episcopal students. The great traditions of Episcopal will continue and new traditions will find a place. Through all the changes, the Chapel will stand- a place of laughter, silence, presence, and peace.
Our community holds this sacred space to uplift and inspire, just as we incorporate morality, empathy, and presence into all of our classes. All of us, as we gather there, will remain under construction-- constantly being renovated as we continue our individual spiritual journeys.
The Psalmist, as is often the case, said it best:
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house
they will be alway praising thee.
Please share your stories of the Chapel with us. Leave a comment, we would love to hear your story!