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Process to remove Prescott Prayer Chapel set in motion

Prescott Prayer Chapel and a new chapel will be built. After an email sent to students on Tuesday by President Bob Brower, students can soon expect more construction here on campus.

“The decision has been made to build a new Lyle and Grace Prescott Prayer Chapel rather than relocate the existing chapel,” Brower said via a campus-wide email to students.

In order to make room for the science building, Prescott was scheduled to move 40 feet towards the street in time for fall semester.

Upon completing the research necessary to move the building, the university discovered that the chapel was not structurally adequate. Rotting in the frame of the building and the costs of renovating the small chapel was approximately $450,000, 15 times more than the $30,000 it took to move the chapel from Pasadena College.

Joe Watkins, vice president of external relations, said this decision has been a long time coming. Faculty were notified of the issue at a meeting late last fall.

“The entire process took several months to gather all of the information necessary to make a well informed decision,” said Watkins via email to the Point.

Ron Benefiel, the current dean of the school of theology and Christian ministry, was a part of bringing Prescott Prayer Chapel to PLNU back in June of 1972 from Pasadena College. Benefiel was also involved in the decision-making process.

“Bob Brower and Joe Watkins have kept me up-to-date on their thinking regarding the future of the prayer chapel,” said Benefiel via email to The Point. “They have been considering the options for some time… at least for the past year.”

Brower said PLNU waits on the design and the city to project dates and costs of the building.

“When the design is agreed to, we will need to get the required city permits, get bids for the construction project and then the timeline for the construction can be established,” said Brower to The Point.

PLNU will coordinate with an architectural firm, contractors and subcontractors when they are selected, to create a floor plan and timeline for the new chapel. Watkins said they plan to finish the building by Spring 2015, the same time as the new science building.

“Once an architect has been identified, we will begin the work on the design and the size,” said Watkins. “The chapel will be removed within the next few weeks after removing the stained glass windows, the crosses and any other items of significance. Then the building and foundation will be removed from the site by the contractor in the safest way possible.”

Pieces of the old building, such as the stained glass windows, will be incorporated into the new chapel. Theology professor Steve Rodheaver said he appreciates the determination to be faithful to the heritage and purpose of the prayer chapel.

“Preserving the windows is a good symbolic, connective thing to do,” said Rodheaver via email.

The chapel will be built to withstand the coastal climate, increase in space and move closer to the street just beyond the science building, which Watkins is confident students will enjoy.

“The response so far to the news of the Prayer chapel has been remarkably supportive,” said Watkins.

ASB Director of Spiritual Life, Riley Verner, is excited for the new building and for that space to finally be available.

“The new space will be amazing, I’m sure, and will allow for a place to remain for years and years to come without worry that the structure will fall apart,” Verner said via email.

Benefiel said while he has a history with the original Prescott Prayer Chapel, he understands that in its current form, it may not serve its original purpose.

“The old prayer chapel has served us well,” said Benefiel. “While on the one hand, it is sad to see it go, I am looking forward to seeing what the new prayer chapel will be like as it is designed to meet the needs of the campus community today.”

Many students share Benefiel’s nostalgia towards the loss of this chapel.

“Tearing down Prescott and building a new one comes with a little bit of sadness for those who have spent hours in there and have encountered God in that place,” said Verner.

A Facebook page created last Thursday called “PLNU Prescott Prayer Chapel” is a place where those who have called PLNU home can reflect on and post memories of their time in the chapel.

“I’m so thankful for this page! Prescott Prayer Chapel was my favorite place on campus!” posted recent PLNU graduate Rebecca Rossiter. “I can’t wait to visit the new chapel when it is built. My friends and I have so many wonderful memories of worshipping late into the night.”

Benefiel hopes the new chapel will hopefully still be a place that students can come to seek quiet time with God.

“I am hopeful that it will continue to be not only a symbol of the importance of prayer on our campus. but also a designated place where people gather to speak to and hear from God,” said Benefiel.

Because current construction makes Prescott Prayer Chapel inaccessible, a replacement space for prayer has been created on the upper rotunda atop of the Ryan Library, otherwise known as the Ryan Plaza. Brower said this space is available for all who “seek a quiet space for prayer and reflection.”


Video provided by The Point’s Nick Kjeldgaard.


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