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Sickler chapel’s remodeling

Newly-christened Clyde Meredith Prayer Chapel now open

New pews, chairs and lights adorn the reopened Meredith Prayer Chapel. (Photograph by Riley Hochstetler)

New pews, chairs and lights adorn the reopened Meredith Prayer Chapel. (Photograph by Riley Hochstetler)

By: Chrysa Keenon | Echo

The small prayer chapel in Sickler Hall has been rebranded and renovated over the summer.

Called a “hidden gem” on campus, the chapel was closed in early June and remained under construction throughout the summer months. It has recently been reopened for student and staff use. The historic chapel, located on the first floor of Sickler Hall, has been renamed as the Clyde Meredith Prayer Chapel.

Previously in the space, there was soft lighting, a basin for feet washing and a depiction of Jesus with two pierced hands and a crown of thorns. Student art and notes of prayers lined the walls along with couches holding journals full of requests or anonymous confessions about certain walks of life. The space was not limited to just students, as alumni and parents would also join in writing praises, requests and needs.

There were previously five pews in the hall, but renovations brought five newly constructed pews, one chair from Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh’s office and a second constructed to match. According to Special Assistant to the President Ron Sutherland, there are plans of adding a small sound system. Other considerations include a podium, a small table and a kneeling area.

“When President Haines came (into office,) we saw the prayer chapel had gotten less formal and had gotten a little more (home-y) version of the space,” Sutherland said. “He remembered it as a pretty substantial space from our alumni’s perspective.”

Most of the changes that were made to the chapel were done for alumni, to restore the area they might have known during their time on campus. Sutherland relayed it was not a space just for alumni and can be utilized by current students and staff, but the goal of the renovations was to create a sense of connection for past students who may return to campus to visit.

The journals and prayer slips which students wrote on previously have been stored in the archives. There are five journals which will currently be available for students to write prayer requests.

“We had a little bit of a conversation about what to do with that material because a lot of it is very personal,” Sutherland said. There were concerns of students taking photos or uploading journal entries to social media, which could break the solitude and anonymity of the entries. “(The journals are) a little more protected and preserved. They’re not lost, simply a little more controlled in terms of access.”

The new namesake of the site is Clyde Meredith, a university president in the ’50s. According to Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer, Meredith was the one who set aside the space in Sickler to be used as an area of reflection and coming to God for students. According to Sutherland, Meredith was the first president to give Taylor accreditation and the Meredith family was one of the project’s largest donors. The renaming was an opportunity to honor him.

The renovations came as a shock to some students who have mixed feelings overall. Those who frequented it to find peace and solitude must now confront the fact that the space has changed.

“I loved the history that was in it. I’m really excited to go back and see it, (but) there’s mixed emotions,” senior Rachael Schwulst said. “The fact that they’re even giving it the thought; it’s kind of the forgotten prayer chapel with the new one now. I’m hoping with the renovations people will not just view it as the sketchy old prayer chapel but like a beautiful space, a sacred space.”

Other students who came there found a challenge in finding peace amongst the various notebooks, journals, art and paper, and are relieved to see a new structured format of the building. Senior Katie Hiegel said the new layout is an improvement because of how cluttered the chapel was and how the space showed wear from old age.

Yet not all responses from students are positive. According to senior Alexandra Kane, the changes of the chapel were so dramatic that she cried.

“It’s very cookie-cutter, (like someone) copied and pasted a chapel and put it into a place that used to be a prayer haven,” Kane said. “It was a private, sacred, timeless place. It doesn’t have that warm feel that I so desperately craved all the ups and downs of my college career.”

Chief of Police Jeff Wallace confirmed the chapel will be open for student and staff accessibility before 7 a.m. and close at 2 a.m.

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