Volume 5 Number 2
by Barbara A. Chaapel
Singing these words of a hymn written by PTS alumnus and trustee Fred R. Anderson and set to music by John Weaver, the Princeton Seminary community rededicated Miller Chapel in a moving service on October 9. Other than for the opening convocation of the academic year in September, when the still unfinished building was the site of worship, the dedication service marked the first time the Seminary community had gathered in its historic sanctuary for more than a year.
Board of Trustees chair Robert Adams preached a sermon titled “Holy Places,” recalling the sacred history of the chapel that has graced the Seminary campus and been its spiritual center since 1834. Renovated no fewer than four times (in 1874, 1933, 1964, and 2000), Miller Chapel today welcomes worshippers to a larger, light-filled sanctuary with a central pulpit and communion table and with astonishing acoustics for its new organ and grand piano.
President Gillespie brought greetings to the Seminary community, invited guests, and visitors, with warm thanks to the many donors (alumni/ae, trustees, faculty and staff, friends, foundations, corporations, and churches) who made the buildings a reality. As of December 31, 2000, $7,125,200.04 had been received to support Miller and Scheide. The project, as is true with many renovation and construction projects, exceeded its original budget by more than twenty percent.
“I am pleased how well the renovation retrieves the original ‘one-room’ meetinghouse, while preserving intact the marvelous detailing, Corinthian columns, and Greek Revival fixtures of the 1933 alterations,” says James F. Kay, professor of homiletics and chair of the renovation committee. “To see the sturdy, elevated pulpit and the substantial Lord’s Table centered together in the midst of the congregation clearly communicates the centrality of Word and Sacrament for Christian worship.”
Seminary archivist William Harris agrees with the high praise for the renovation. “The chapel renovation has surpassed all my expectations,” he extols. “The original beauty of the place has been enhanced handsomely by the use of rich, lively color and the introduction of period chandeliers. The place is literally radiant both by night and by day with a warm, inviting, and even numinous light. One feels drawn here for personal meditation as well as for public worship.”
Coming from a historian, that is high acclaim indeed. Harris has studied the earlier incarnations of the building and knows that architects, builders, and planners alike worked hard to preserve the vision of its original architect, Charles Steadman. Like the original building, the chapel today unites celebrants, choir, and congregation, emphasizes the centrality of the preached word with the central pulpit, and places the communion table at the same level as the congregation.
© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary