Con­struction on Christ Chapel has been delayed due to weather and detail work on the stone masonry. Sofia Krusmark | Col­legian

Hillsdale College’s Christ Chapel will not be fin­ished in time for com­mencement in May of 2019, Pres­ident Larry Arnn recently announced. The chapel is expected to be fin­ished two months later.

“It’s not a very serious delay,” Arnn said. “There’s a lot of masonry work, and the masons who can do this quality of work are limited. Buildings never seem to be early, and with ones like this, if they’re 10 percent late, that’s pretty good. It won’t be done before the seniors go away. That’s the only thing I don’t like about it.”

But Arnn said he still hopes to bring seniors and fam­ilies into the unfin­ished chapel, during com­mencement week.

“I said to Mark, who is the boss on the site, ‘So what if I want to find a way to bring several hundred people in here for some­thing?’ And he said, ‘We’ll find a way,’” Arnn said.  

Don Lambert, super­in­tendent of masonry on the chapel project, said the early winter took a toll on the chapel’s progress since the mortar between the brick and lime­stone is water-based. However, he said the delay rests in the “quality and com­plexity” demanded by the job.  

“The college is spending a lot more money on quality than quantity. Anyone can lay a lot of block real fast and bomb up a wall, but if it’s wrong, it throws off the whole building,” Lambert said. “Every­thing mounts off the masonry. If you try to rush some­thing, every­thing can go south real quick.”

Mark Shol­len­berger, super­in­tendent of con­struction, said a shortage of laborers also pre­vented the chapel from fin­ishing on time. He said the company lacks around 60 brick­layers, a trade that he said seems to have a shortage of nec­essary labor.

With the masonry 99 percent fin­ished on the interior, Lambert said the outdoor stonework is more than 70 percent com­plete.

“We have left to put the dome, and the arcades,” Lambert said. For brick­laying, he said they are “at 54 feet on the south gable wall facing the clock tower, and we only have 12 feet to go on the towers them­selves.”

Con­struction on Christ Chapel con­tinues. Sofia Krusmark | Col­legian

Shol­len­berger said the ceiling is the most pressing unfin­ished project.

“You have to schedule every­thing around the ceiling. You have to get every­thing done up high and get down to a level where you don’t have those lifts in the building anymore,” Shol­len­berger said. “Once we finish getting the plaster and drywall done on the ceiling, we can start priming and painting the stair­wells so we can begin the flooring.”

Carl Clark, a mason tender on site, said the tedious con­struction job demands patience.

“Don doesn’t get all pan­icked, so we don’t have to get pan­icked. We shouldn’t get so bound up in a sit­u­ation that we can’t control,” Clark said. “When things aren’t right on track, I’ve learned to be meek and keep giving all the glory to God.”

Aside from “going back to church” and starting to read books on the Con­sti­tution, Clark said this job is the biggest project he’s done in America.

“When there is a greater good to be served, it doesn’t matter how tough the job is. It’s an hon­orable thing to do. It’s help me stay humble. I feel like Job some­times. There’s so much power and glory in God, that when I remain calm and quiet, and my ego doesn’t get in the way, I get to see it. It’s just a beau­tiful job,” Clark said.

Bruce Malpass, a con­struction worker on site, said this is an incredibly intricate project.

“I’ve been in con­struction for 30 years, and I’ve never seen any­thing built like this before,” he said. “They tell me these are the largest load-bearing lime­stone columns in the nation. I’ve never seen a barrel ceiling like this. Maybe in Europe.”

To the senior class who won’t be having their com­mencement cer­emony in the chapel, Arnn assures that there will be many other occa­sions.

“Come back and get married in it,” Arnn said. “Come back and see it. Par­tic­ipate. You’re members of the college for life. It’s always there for you to use.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    the temple to mammon will, of-course, require more money and time to be built. Of course you should come back. How will they get an ROI if you don’t spend some time with the money-changers in the temple?

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Buzz kill.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        reality. BTW. I have heard that there is major-major neg­ative energy around this project from a good amount of donors. No one is happy about this pet-project of Dr. Arnn and the new theocracy. This story is the mangled way in which the truth comes to light in a regime where free speech is not allowed.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          Would that be ‘major-major’ or ‘MAJOR-major’?

          All I know is the couple who donated the money for this chapel did it as a directed-giving donation. They stip­u­lated their donation was to be used for this Chapel. What was Pres­ident Arnn going to do, tell them ‘Sorry, but you can donate to our General Foun­dation, but you can’t stip­ulate how your money is going to be spent.’? Many Endowment funds accept directed-giving. In fact I’d go so far as to say MOST dona­tions are directed giving.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            you mean — should Dr. Arnn have some prin­ciples? should he turn down a financial package to build a redundant chapel on a campus that was renowned for liberty and 18th century style sec­u­larism???? yes. he should have. BTW, Major Major from Catch 22 is how I picture Dean Peterson at this point.

          • Camus53

            “‘major-major’ or ‘MAJOR-major’?”

            Well we know you never majored in any­thing nor even attended Hillsdale.

            Hey…Hillsdale has got their annual campus walk brick sale coming up…maybe you can buy a brick and become part of the college that way?

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Lis­tening to Rush or Dennis Prager doesn’t count?

          • Camus53


            Sorry to hear about the roads there…maybe Hap­pydale could help pitch in a few mil of their near billion savings fund?

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Were asked in 2014, told the town to essen­tially pound sand.

          • Camus53

            Not sur­pris­ingly.

            Be well up there in the Dale!

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    They are building a Chapel for the ages, there is no haste. Do it right, do it with quality, do it with love. That’s more important than meeting some target date.

    A hundred years from now when we’re all long gone, people will be using this Chapel. Let’s build it so they’ll see we did our best, not our quickest.

    • Jen­nifer Melfi

      chapel for the ages? Have you been to College Baptist? Can you really tell me that this is much dif­ferent:

      This is the fallacy of the hype — they already have a per­fectly good chapel that doesn’t get used all of that much. It’s a joke to please Christian-Right donors.

      • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

        What the hey, don’t let it spoil your holiday season.

        Here’s some fine music to relax by:

        • Jen­nifer Melfi

          my com­puter at work is screening the link or whatever music you posted. After all, you may be right. 2 baby Jeebus’s in 2 mangers was always the correct vision. Double down on every­thing.

  • BradinAZ

    To be truly authentic the chapel would take another hundred years to finish, employ gen­er­a­tions of stone­masons and be paid for by the local farmers who would bring their wares to market at the site. But maybe that’s a little too Pillars of the Earth. As it stands most large projects like this don’t finish exactly on time and a two month delay is really not sig­nif­icant.

    • Jen­nifer Melfi

      Prior Phillip wouldn’t stand for a chapel not 2000 feet from another chapel. This is totally a Waleran Bigod move by Dr. Arnn.