Portraits Of Belief: Discovering Chapel House

Jenn Carey

When sitting in the Chapel House chapel, even the slightest movement seems to

interrupt the silence of the room. It is hard to believe that such a serene space sits just

up the hill from the main Colgate campus. For many students, this column may be

the first time they hear about Chapel House. However, for other students, alumni and

visitors, Chapel House is a beloved part of the Colgate campus. Chapel House depends

on these visitors.

“What makes [Chapel House]…special really are the people who come,” Director

of Chapel House and Professor of the Study of the Great Religions of the World John

Carter said. Carter described how “word of mouth” allows Chapel House to persist.

And if recent trends are any indicator, this longevity appears fairly assured. According

to Carter, the number of visitors is steadily increasing.

“More people know where Chapel House is now,” Carter said. Although Chapel House

may not be so foreign to the student body, it still remains distinct from daily campus life.

According to the Chapel House brochure, “Chapel House is supportive of the personal

quest: uncluttered by group conferences, meetings or organized discussions, programs or

sponsored worship. This genuine openness to the personal quest assures that Chapel House

will not maintain formal affiliation with any particular religious organization.” Given this

commitment, many students may wonder just what role Chapel House plays.

Carter provided an appropriately inconcrete answer to this question.

“Some people come just to reflect. They don’t have to do anything….They’re absolutely

free to develop their own routines. That’s the beauty of Chapel House,” Carter

said. He went on to describe how “What a person does here is…find themselves.”

Although the serenity of a visit to Chapel House may feel completely at odds with the hectic

daily life at Colgate, the building remains an important part of this campus. This draws into

question what relationship exists, if any, between the university community and Chapel House.

Carter describes this relationship as a delicate balance, with Chapel House feeling “not too close”

or “not too far from Colgate.” He also expanded on his hopes for the future of Chapel House.

“The vision is we’re not pushing Chapel House. It’s here to be discovered.” And for

any student or visitor willing to take advantage of this space, Chapel House is an amazing

breath of fresh air.

Contact Jenn Carey at [email protected]