Con­vo­cation was held in Christ Chapel for the first time. | Courtesy Ethan Greb

On Nov. 14, Christ Chapel opened its massive wooden doors for the first of many con­vo­ca­tions. After the faculty pro­ces­sional, accom­panied by music from the choir and organist Derek Stauff, assistant pro­fessor of music, Provost Christopher VanOrman announced the spring semester’s aca­demic achieve­ments. The all-school average GPA was 3.399. The all-women’s GPA was 3.486, while the all-men’s was 3.317. Pi Beta Phi earned the Greek schol­arship cup for soror­ities with a 3.520 GPA, while Alpha Tau Omega won for the fra­ter­nities, with a 3.302 GPA.

Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn took to the pulpit, beginning with an acknowl­edgement of the people who made Christ Chapel pos­sible.   

“Duncan Stroik designed this building and we should thank him for that,” Arnn said of the chapel’s architect who was in atten­dance. Con­struction workers for the chapel’s con­struction team were also present, and Arnn rec­og­nized their work over the past few years, prompting a standing ovation from the audience. Arnn noted that the workers’ names would be etched into a plaque and dis­played in the chapel in honor of their achievement.

Arnn also spoke on the purpose of the chapel.

“There is con­flict all around us,” he said. “In a time like this, C.S. Lewis writes, things come to a point. There’s not as much neutral ground as there used to be. So we’re here to thank God today. We should remember to be grateful. The things we were made to teach are what we teach.” 

Arnn then announced this semester’s winner of the Emily Daugherty Award for Excel­lence in Teaching: Stephen Naumann, assistant pro­fessor of German. Arnn praised him for his impact on the department 

“Get that guy to take you to Germany,” Arnn joked.  

After pre­senting Naumann with the award, Arnn intro­duced the main speaker Michael Ward, senior research fellow at Black­friars Hall, Uni­versity of Oxford and author of “Planet Narnia.” 

Arnn said Ward is a man with “wicked wit.”

“We asked him to speak at the ground­breaking, which was the right thing to do, and now we’ve asked him to speak at our first con­vo­cation inside the chapel,” Arnn said.  

In his speech, Ward explored the origin of the word “chapel.” He traced its ety­mology to the story of St. Martin, a young Christian convert who came upon a scantily-clad beggar and cut his cloak in two, giving one to the beggar and keeping the other for himself. St. Martin’s half was pre­served in a sanc­tuary that came to be known as a “chapel,” derived from the Latin word for “cape.” Like the sword and cloak of St. Martin, Ward said, it is through our apparent weak­nesses that we can make others strong, thereby putting a new twist on Hillsdale’s motto, “strength rejoices in the chal­lenge.”   

Senior Nathan Mes­siter expressed appre­ci­ation for Ward’s lecture, par­tic­u­larly the con­nec­tions he drew between the his­torical context of the chapel, the purpose it serves today, and how it relates to the Christian life.

“I’ve been raving about why Dr. Ward is the best,” Mes­siter said. “He gets what this college is about and why we do what we do. He’s bril­liant.”

Senior Stephen Richmann con­curred.

“I think the crux of Michael Ward’s speech about strength being found right where you’d think you’d be most weak is con­nected to earth-shat­tering truths that are part of the gospel,” he said. “I appre­ciated him honing in on that. As a culture, I don’t think we fully under­stand the full depth of that.”

Both stu­dents described it as an honor to be the first class to expe­rience con­vo­cation in the chapel.

“What struck me the most was the sat­is­faction on Dr. Arnn’s face,” Richmann said. “He felt very strongly about the chapel project, and he’s just very clearly delighted to see its com­pletion.”