Nearly two years after construction began, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Hillsdale College gathered for the highly anticipated dedication of Christ Chapel on Oct. 3. Headlining the attendees was Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, who delivered dedicatory remarks.
“By constructing this chapel, the college upholds the importance of its Christian roots, even as it respects the rights of each person to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience,” Thomas said to a crowd of more than 800.
The college broke ground on the project on Nov. 7, 2017 and the chapel’s construction was originally expected to be completed earlier this year. After nearly two years, only minor interior and exterior construction remains, and the building is open.
“When you walk into here, do you not look up and think of the ultimate things?” Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn asked the audience before Thomas spoke.
Thomas shared personal remarks about the role of faith in his own life and noted the importance of having a sacred space for prayer and praise.
“Chapels are particularly important in providing a place for the burdened, the broken-hearted, and the despairing,” Thomas said. “When life is difficult and seems pointless, we need a safe haven where we can escape from the storm and find solace. Chapels provide that setting.”
Thomas explained that the presence of a chapel on a college campus was particularly significant.
“The college years require young people to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. They are exposed to new ideas, new relationships, new distractions, and new temptations. They need a place where they can go to be relieved of their troubles and what they are bearing as so much comes at them so fast,” Thomas said. “By building this chapel, Hillsdale College has provided that space where students can come to discern God’s calling, to pray through difficult times, and to praise God for his faithfulness.”
The dedication began with performances by Hillsdale College’s Choir and Chamber Choir under the direction of Professor and Music Department Chairman James Holleman. The choir opened the ceremony with a performance of “I Was Glad,” composed by Hubert Parry.
“‘I was Glad’ has been sung at every English coronation since 1902. Its lyrics come from Psalm 122, in which David prays for peace in Jerusalem,” junior and Chamber Choir member Gabriel Kramer said. “Christ Chapel is meant to serve as a foretaste of the eternal peace that all believers will experience in the New Jerusalem.”
The choir also sung Johannes Brahms’ “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” a choral setting of Psalm 84.
“It describes the yearning of the soul to enter the dwelling place of God,” Kramer said. “It’s an exceedingly appropriate text for the opening of the chapel.”
The dedication ceremony was live streamed on both Hillsdale College’s website and Facebook page, and the video is still available to watch.