Renovations Enhance Beloved Chapel

Warm light basks in the renovated prayer chapel. These temporary chairs will be replaced with wood-framed, fabric-covered chairs

Warm light permeates throughout the renovated prayer chapel. These temporary chairs will be replaced with wood-framed, fabric-covered chairs.

The Nancy Voskuyl Prayer Chapel, built in 1961, is undergoing renovation to enhance students’ experience in the beloved space. Built to memorialize President Roger Voskuyl’s daughter, who was killed in a 1959 car accident, the chapel had begun to deteriorate externally and internally.

Beginning in summer 2016, crews painted the outside of the building, repaired the roof, and restored the pipe organ donated by the Dirks family several decades ago. This past summer, workers removed the worn carpet, dismantled the deteriorating pews, took out the unused window-box cabinets, and are upgrading electrical equipment and the heating system. Crews repainted the interior of the chapel and refurbished and stained the impressive trusses. The new slate-toned, ceramic tile enhances the acoustics for worship services using the organ, piano and singing. Wood-framed, fabric-covered chairs will replace the pews to facilitate many kinds of prayer, worship and praise and create greater flexibility for students who use the building.

The Voskuyl Prayer Chapel as it is today.

The Voskuyl Prayer Chapel as it is today.

“The prayer chapel is the heart of this campus,” says alumna Melinda Moers Harriman ’87, director of conference and event services, and campus scheduling. “Prayer, song and fellowship play an important role in our campus life, and the prayer chapel is once again an inviting place to gather for such purposes.”

“The heat stopped working, the carpet was worn, hard to clean and smelled bad, and the interior design limited students’ use of the room,” says Randy Jones, director of campus planning. “After 56 years, the building needed renovation.

“It’s now a bright, fresh and friendly place to gather,” he says. “Redesigning the walls beneath the windows has expanded the space and the flexible seating allows for larger circles of prayer. The new heating system will be welcome during colder weather.”

The chapel in the early 60s

The chapel in the early 60s

“The new tile floor makes the singing livelier and the organ is alive again,” says Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship. “I pass the chapel frequently when traversing the campus. It always reminds me that prayer and faithfulness are central to what we do here. Students fill it with prayer and songs of worship with guitar and piano late into the evenings and sometimes in the mornings before chapel in the gym.”

Shasberger sought shelter in the gym during the 2008 Tea Fire when the prayer chapel appeared to be engulfed in flames. “The next morning, I marveled that by the grace of God it was still standing, almost unscathed by the flames,” he says. “I observed it being renovated this summer and am delighted to see it serving with a brighter resonance and more inviting glow.”