Lee University chapel ready for homecoming

Lee University chapel ready for homecoming

October 30th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Lee University President Paul Conn sits in the pew of the school's newly built chapel in Cleveland, Tenn., Friday as the construction nears its finish.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Lee University President Paul Conn walks down the aisle of the newly built chapel Friday as the construction nears its finish. Conn said that he wanted to make a statement with the construction of the chapel to illustrate the importance of the church to the university.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

A large stained-glass window decorates the far end of the newly built Lee University Chapel. Lee University President Paul Conn said that he wanted to make a statement with the construction of the chapel to illustrate the importance of the church to the university. The project is nearing its completion.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The chapel at Lee University looks like no other structure on campus.

That's the way it was meant to be, university President Paul Conn said Friday.

"Every building we have completed the past 25 years has the classic Greek Revival look," Conn said. "The purpose is to create a coherent architectural feel. Speaking without having any idea what will happen, I would say our next one probably will have the same architecture."

But the chapel signals a special place, he said, one that fits well with a half-dozen or more historic churches close by.

"We wanted it to be in the classic tradition of downtown Cleveland churches; something the community can take pride in, too," Conn said.

On Thursday the university's board of directors will hold the first event in the new 300-seat building. Today, as part of Lee's homecoming, there will be a ribbon cutting. An open house is scheduled for Nov. 13. And in December, two Christmas events are planned.

The chapel will not replace Lee's twice-weekly chapel services, at which some 2,000 students gather in two locations.

Conn and his wife, Darlia, began talking about a chapel on campus 12 years ago. But the immediate need was to provide residence halls for a growing campus and then modern classrooms, he said. With the completion of the new Science and Mathematics Building, energy and resources could be directed to the chapel.

Conn turned to his brother Raymond for the first seven-figure contribution.

"For years we've said 'wouldn't it be nice if ...'" Conn said.

After a second significant private donation, the fundraising went public. Ground was broken in September 2010.

The basic construction cost was $3 million, Conn said, but "the meter is still running" and there will be tweaking for a few years to come.

The basement has a fellowship room with dining space for 100 or so people and a small stage to one side. There are offices and quiet spaces for private discussions and prayer.

Upstairs, the sanctuary's vaulted ceiling and large windows bring in outside light, even on a drizzly day. Some stained glass features symbolic reminders of the Church of God's creed.

Matthew Krepps, chemistry professor and organist at Broad Street United Methodist Church, was getting to know the chapel's new organ Friday. The sound flowed through the vaulted space.

"It will be used for a wide variety of music from traditional to contemporary worship," Krepps said.

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