SUSAN HENRY-CROWE woke
at 3 oclock one recent morning, worried about lights.
She is now standing in the Cannon Chapel sanctuary under the
very fixture that disturbed her slumber.
bar of high-tech, gleaming white lights hangs level with a balcony
tier, and Henry-Crowe, dean of the chapel and religious life,
fears they are too visible against the sanctuarys golden
skylights and vaulted oak ceiling.
sanctuary has such wonderful light during the day. But at night,
people couldnt even read the words in their hymnals. Maybe
if we paint them gray, she murmurs, squinting up at the
ceiling. Or tan . . .
Chapel, which observed its twentieth anniversary this September,
invites such concern over detail. Designed by architect Paul
Rudolph (whose father, Keener, was a member of Candlers
first graduating class in 1915), the contemporary building is
intended to be a transcendent, awe-inspiring space, organic
in form, flexible in function.
arent many truly sacred spaces left. Everybody co-opted
that term until it has become generic, says Henry-Crowe,
who for eleven years has guided the religious life of Emorys
campus, first as University chaplain then, since 1998, as dean
of the chapel. Our desire is for this to be a protected,
intimate spot for worship, meditation, and reflection.
Chapel, named for long-time Candler professor and dean Bishop
William R. Cannon, was conceived in 1975, when the theology
school purchased 220,000 books from the Hartford Seminary in
Connecticut and needed a place to keep them. Emory President
James T. Laney, then dean of the theology school, suggested
converting the one-room Durham Chapel, built in 1915, into a
library, and building a larger chapel, one more suited to Emorys
expanding theology program and the Universitys increasingly
the next several years, the University and the Candler School
of Theology raised $4.8 million, with the help of contributions
from individual donors and churches. The new chapel on the Quadrangle,
between Bishops Hall and the Psychology Building, would be a
training ground for student ministers, a place for University
worship, a ceremonial space for weddings and funerals, and a
cultural arts center for performances, recitals, and plays.
symbolically significant to have the Universitys chapel
on the Quadrangle, the historic heart of the campus, says
University Secretary Gary S. Hauk. Religious life is thus
anchored among the academic activities of Emory College as well
as the theology school. And the space has been a wonderful place
for the arts as well as religious life. Given the vibrancy of
the worlds religions as source for the arts, this seems
Chapel is the center of religious observances on campus for
a variety of denominations and religious groups. About fifteen
hundred students attend official worship services each month.
Emory claims grounding in a faith tradition, and religious
and spiritual life remains a foundational root of the University,
Henry-Crowe says. And it is appreciated.
any given week the chapels sanctuary, which seats 480,
might be host to an ecumenical worship service, a Roman Catholic
mass, an Emory Zen Buddhist group meditation, and a Jewish High
Holy Days service. We have diversity within diversity,
Henry-Crowe says of the thirty religious groups represented
on Emorys Interfaith Council. The genius of the
building is that it is built to be an interfaith space. No symbols
commitment to diversity was tested in 1997, when on the basis
of the Universitys Wesleyan roots, an Oxford College employee
was denied use of a campus chapel at Oxford for a same-sex union
ceremony. Henry-Crowe and Oxford Chaplain Sammy Clark, both
United Methodist ministers, were asked to establish guidelines
for the use of University chapels.
decision, approved by Emorys Board of Trustees, was that
recognized religious groups on campus have the right to
practice their own rites and ordinances. The University
chapels, Henry-Crowe and Clark wrote, exist to serve the
religious and spiritual aims of the whole community . . . [and]
reflect the dynamic plurality of a university setting.
So while many denominations dont officially recognize
same-sex unions, a commitment ceremony was recently performed
in Cannon Chapel by the Unitarian Universalist Church, which
Dean Russell E. Richey, of the Candler School of Theology, says
he has come to treasure Cannon Chapel as an expressive, resilient
space that readily accommodates a rich Anglican rite one
day, a joyous African-American service the next, and the moving
United Methodist eucharist the following. Candlers sharing
of Cannon with the University has worked well.M.J.L.