Extreme Makeover: Chapel Edition

After 20 years of use, Cedarville University’s Jeremiah Chapel is being renovated to provide for Cedarville’s growing student body.

Five days a week, for 45 minutes at a time, students, faculty and staff gather in the Jeremiah Chapel. Yet after 20 years of constant use, the Dixon Ministry Center’s Jeremiah Chapel is both showing its age and limitations. As a result, Cedarville President Thomas White said a chapel renovation project will start the summer of 2016.

A place to refocus

Jon Wood, vice president of student life and Christian ministries at Cedarville, said he believes chapel plays a significant role in students’ everyday lives.

“Chapel is the time where students, faculty and staff are able to press the pause button on life around us and to come back and focus on the spiritual priorities of our lives,” Wood said.

Wood said the purpose of chapel is threefold: to draw students into the word of God, to worship through music that is driven by the truth of God, and to find community with others as students live by the word of God.

“If you think about a student, over four years, they are going to spend about 511 chapels in that auditorium,” Wood said.

White said he shared a similar perspective on the importance of chapel.

“Whether professing faith, repenting of sin, answering the call to ministry or making other spiritual decisions, students have been significantly impacted by their chapel experience,” White said. “As such, the investments made to renovate the chapel are worthwhile not because of the importance of the facility itself but because of the importance of what takes place inside the facility.”

Continuing a legacy

Wood said the chapel renovation is not geared toward creating something new but rather continuing on the foundation that has been laid.

“In some sense, we’re not creating anything new, but we are being faithful to the heritage of what God has done and worked through at Cedarville,” Wood said.

Wood said one goal of this project is to continue the legacy that was begun by leaders like Cedarville’s eighth president Paul Dixon decades ago.

Over the years, chapel has been held in the Alford Auditorium, the Apple Technology Resource Center, and most recently the Dixon Ministry Center.

Wood said the project has an emphasis on stewardship and quality with the intent of building a chapel that will last for several decades to come.

“What we’re asking is how can we create an auditorium that will be used for the next 20 years in the way God has used it in the past 20 years to work in students’ lives,” Wood said.

Making changes


photo illustration courtesy of Worship Space Advisers

Rod Johnson is the associate vice president for operations at Cedarville University and has overseen the construction of buildings such as the Health Sciences Center, the Chemistry Laboratory Center, the combined Hill residence hall, and more.

Johnson is now overseeing the chapel renovation project and said the Jeremiah Chapel has begun to show its age, such as the fabric of the pews tearing.

He said the renovation can be separated into two parts: the facility issues, such as the seats, lighting and paint, and the audio/ visual issues, such as sound and projection. Johnson said he would like to update the chapel for another long period of use.

I want to create a space that is freshened up and a little more modern, and something that will last for the next 20 years,

Johnson said.

Contracting companies, such as Series Seating and Ohio Valley Painting, are collaborating with Cedarville for the renovation.

On campus, Johnson said, both Production Services and the president’s cabinet have played major roles in planning and developing the project.

To address the problem of inadequate space in the Jeremiah Chapel, the renovated chapel will expand into the classroom directly behind the chapel. The pews will be replaced with theatre-style seats, and an additional 170 seats will be added, increasing the chapel’s capacity to nearly 3,400.

As for audio/visuals, new projectors and screens will provide a clearer experience for individuals farther from the stage. The sound system will be updated and the current standard light bulbs will be replaced with longer-lasting LED light bulbs.

Johnson said these renovations will provide both better sound and better projection within the chapel, as well as reduced maintenance.

The renovation project will begin at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, and students have been warned that this may interfere with the last few days of school. Johnson said the goal is to finish by Getting Started Weekend in August 2016.

“It will be a challenge, but those dates are our target. We don’t have any other time to get it done,” Johnson said.

Summer camps that usually use the Jeremiah Chapel for their activities will instead use the Field House, Johnson said. He said this will accommodate some, but not all, of the summer camps.

Wood said he believes all the renovations will play a part in updating the atmosphere of the chapel.

I think the most important thing about the renovation project is that it will, in a reasonable level of stewardship, bring about a total refresh to the environment and the capabilities of what we can do in the chapel,” Wood said. “No single element is more important than another, but every single element contributes toward an environment where we can use the chapel well for the foreseeable future.

Counting the cost

Since renovating the Jeremiah Chapel is a sizeable financial investment for Cedarville, the university leadership has promised that the project costs will not affect current students. White said funds for the renovation project are not tied to student tuition.

“We are also raising money for this renovation because we don’t want these upgrades to be financed in any way through student tuition or fees,” White said. “Support from the (chapel) campaign will provide a state-of-the-art chapel facility that does not depend at all on current students’ funds.”

The university has contacted alumni to help raise money for the project. Wood said most alumni have realized the importance daily chapel had in their spiritual lives as students and are willing to donate to the project.

Although the technical and logistical benefits of the chapel renovation are significant, Wood emphasizes the spiritual significance of what takes place in chapel.

Wood said one of his best recent memories of the chapel comes from the Fall 2015 Bible Conference at which evangelist Clayton King spoke. Specifically, Wood said he remembers praying with students who accepted Christ after one of King’s messages.

“Everything about this life and for eternity to come is different for them because of what happened in that room,” Wood said. “That’s why we’re doing the project.”

Kjersti Fry is a sophomore pharmacy major and campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys playing piano and ultimate Frisbee and spending time with friends and family.

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