Estes Chapel houses the spiritual heartbeat of the Kentucky campus. Asbury Seminary Alumni call Estes Chapel a spiritual home, a house of prayer and a place of worship.
For many, Asbury Seminary Chapel recalls memories of strong friendships, powerful worship experiences, specific calls from God, or the beginning of a marriage.
Share your memories of Estes Chapel with #IHeartEstes on social media (be sure to make your post public) or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share them on our website and social media pages over the coming months!
Virginia Sue (Foster) Dennis
Let me tell you why I love Estes Chapel. I was Virginia Sue Foster in 1954 when I graduated from Asbury College. A new office had just opened up at the Seminary called Asbury Theological Seminary Alumni and Public Relations. I was interviewed for the job and worked there for three years when I met Bobby Joe Dennis, Asbury Theological Seminary graduate in 1956. I loved my job, the college and the Seminary and never wanted to leave, but my husband was a ministerial student and was taking his first church in the WNC United Methodist at Stoneville, N.C. So, we moved to North Carolina. However, before leaving, we were married in Estes Chapel, September 28, 1957. He died this year on September 3. We would have been married 59 years. Our Daughter, Elizabeth Dennis Birks graduated from Asbury College in 1982. She was married in Estes Chapel, September 18, 1982, almost twenty-five years to the day we were married. She was married by the same minister, Dr. Y. D. Westerfield, Asbury College Dean of Men for whom I worked the four years I was in college. I had a close relationship with the faculty and staff at the Seminary, and it always felt like home to me. I cherish those memories. I am 87 now and almost everyone I knew is gone, but not the memories.
Kevin Harbin, ’97
I was supporting a family of six as a part time janitor at the Seminary. I had left a position in the business world that was financially good enough to raise my family. Like Abraham, I left all, and was now “broke” though our bills were mounting. I relied to much on self. God was teaching me that he is my provider. In Chapel, Jackie Pullinger, missionary from Hong Kong spoke to my heart. God transformed my heart. Twenty years later I still remember that moment. It has saved me. Estes chapels help save me.
Joni Manson, ’97
Anytime we sang ‘And Can It Be’ was extraordinarily special. I was honored to be asked by Dr. Bauer to be on the podium with him & N.T. Wright during a Chapel Service. I was honored to serve Holy Communion alongside Dr. Oswalt during another Chapel Service.
Dan Casselberry, ’72
When I was a student at Asbury College (now University) I came across the street to hear E. Stanley Jones speak sometime during the 1968-1969 school year. He spoke on the kingdom of God and the Lordship of Christ and used “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” as the altar call. He said that Luke 4:18-19 was Jesus’ kingdom platform. The passage taken from Isaiah 61 is also my call to ministry! I went forward to pray and renew my commitment to God’s kingdom and calling to ministry.
On Valentine’s Day 1972 I asked Cherrie (also a student at Asbury Seminary) to marry me, and she said yes. We were in the Prayer Room attached to Estes Chapel, and we read I Corinthians 13 together and knelt and prayed. The window in the prayer room says “Thy Will Be Done,” and we trust it has been since we have been in ministry and married 44 years.
Estes was not only where I graduated from Asbury Seminary, but also where we enjoyed attending the December graduations of our daughter and son. Michelle received her degree in counseling, and Shawn received his degree in evangelism and missions. The December graduating classes were smaller and the chapel was decorated for Christmas, plus there was snow on the ground.
Two of the professors whose preaching in Estes made a lasting impression were J.T. Seamands and Robert Coleman. Two great men of God whose messages stirred our souls. J.T. challenged us to go out in mission and Bob to go out in evangelism. They both lifted us to heavenly joy!
Judy (Olin) Paul, ’74
Came to ATS in the Fall of 1971 – one of 38 female students. My major was in Church Music and I had a strong alto/soprano voice. I remember the first time we sang “And Can It Be” in the chapel service. All those strong male voices. I couldn’t hear myself sing. Wonderful!!!!
Second memory is May 27, 1974–My husband, David, and I were married in Estes Chapel. Dr. Stanger performed the wedding ceremony, Prof. Tremaine sang, and Barry Buchanan played the organ. Adjith Fernando was part of the wedding party. A very memorable day for us at least.
Guy Ames, ’78
I married my wife, Margaret in Estes Chapel, May 19, 1978, a day after my last final.
Kenna Sapp, ’91
I really enjoyed the praise and worship gatherings on Friday mornings which were sponsored by Dr. Steve Seamands. I learned so much about expressive forms of worship by being with the International students and seeing how freely they danced with joy before the Lord. I grew an ecumenical heart during those times.
Rebecca Belt ’94
I’ll never forget the time of personal prayer with God, when His love just for me finally broke through all of the barriers the enemy had used to keep me from experiencing such awesome love. I was holding a big, gold cross, allowing the truth of God’s love to wash over me and permeate my soul. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I soaked in God’s amazing love. Hallelujah!
John T. “Tim” Shumaker ‘66
As a 1966 graduate of Asbury Seminary, I remember well my student sermons in Estes Chapel under the tutelage of Dr. Ralph Lewis. I think both were in my senior year.
The sensation of standing behind that pulpit where so many of my professors and famous invited guest speakers, such as E. Stanley Jones, had stood was very intimidating. One of my favorite speakers in chapel was President Stanger. He always had a relevant topic for fellow preachers, and he had a clear voice and a commanding presence.
I also remember the hearty singing led usually by the music professor whose name slips me. One habit he had was commenting briefly on the history and meaning of the hymns. I learned many new hymns in those chapel services, hymns which I later introduced to the congregations I served.
James M. Harrison ’67
My sacred and joyful memories of Estes Chapel:
- Prior to each chapel service, the coming together of professors, students, support staff, and guests reverently and prayerfully gathering to worship
- Hearing Dr. Frank B. Stanger, Asbury Seminary president at that time, splendidly and thoroughly introducing guest speakers
- The exuberant singing, especially of the Charles Wesley hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”
- Participating in the Sacrament of Holy Communion
- Listening to the many clergy and lay persons preach their sermons and share their personal stories with passionate joy for Christ’s redemptive love
- Being inspired by the vocal music (soloists, the Asbury Singers, and other groups)
- The moving and powerful music that resonated from the organ
- Time spent alone at the altar or sitting alone in the pew in quiet meditation
- Prayer time at the altar following worship services
- Missionaries from the world over sharing their ministries in heart-warming ways
- Standing near the pulpit and receiving great inspiration thinking of the many divine and Godly persons, men and women, who have stood through the years on the holy ground of Estes Chapel with obvious emotion, boldly proclaiming the One who is “the Bread of Life”
- The stained glass window visible high above the pulpit area sending a powerful message to all who worship in Estes Chapel
Alan D. Milligan ’78
It was at my first chapel service, President Frank Stanger preached on Romans 12:1-2. I went to the altar, which began a nine-month journey that resulted in my Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I loved chapel services and especially the singing!
Dr. David L. McKenna, President, Asbury Theological Seminary ’82-’94
It all began at Estes Chapel.
As a new student in 1951 I joined the construction crew building Estes Chapel. One day while putting in the flashing on the eaves high above the front entrance, I looked down to see President J. C. McPheeters, Dean W.D. Turkington, and Business Manager William Savage peering up at me from the walk below as they inspected the project. Needless to say, I was awed.
At the time, I only knew President McPheeters as the man of miracles who prayed when construction of the campus was stalled for the lack of lumber during World War II. His prayers were answered by the breakdown of a lumber truck on Lexington Avenue with load of wood cut just to the needs of the new building. For me, Dean W.D. Turkington was the dignified and authoritative Professor of New Testament who opened up the Word of God in class each week while keeping a tight hand on the academic quality of the school. Business Manager William Savage was the formidable figure with whom I had to plead for a refund when I wanted to move my lonely wife and baby from the new married student apartments on Morrison Avenue to the buzzing activity around a two-room apartment in the Turner house on Spring Street.
Thirty years later Dr. McPheeters was the first to call and welcome us to the presidency of the Seminary. While president, I had the privilege of leading the dedicatory service for the W.D. Turkington Memorial Garden just east of the library. Throughout our tenure and into retirement, Bill and Dottie Savage became dearest friends and even counted us as members of their family.
Estes Chapel became the site of our inauguration when Janet and I knelt at the altar while the Board of Trustees laid hands on us and prayed for the anointing of His Spirit. It is also the place where we preached our final sermon at the ceremony when William Conger was granted an honorary doctor’s degree for his role in shepherding the estate gift from Ralph and Orlean Beeson that launched the Seminary into its global identity. In between, we remember scores of chapel services, scholarly lectures, and concerts so often graced by the visitation of the Holy Spirit in pulpit, pew and at the altar of prayer.
It all began in Estes Chapel
During chapel in my senior year, Dr. J. T. Seamands, renowned missionary to India, touched every heart with the urgent spiritual needs of that distant country and asked all who heard the call the God to meet him at the altar. I heard the call but did not go forward. Instead, I went back to our little apartment, knelt by the bed, and began to argue with God. Earlier in the year, I had lost my John Wesley Foundation scholarship because I planned to pursue a Ph.d rather than go directly to the parish ministry. Admission had already been granted at Boston University and the University of Southern California. As economic backup for these doctoral programs, a small church was ready for us in Scituate, Massachusetts and a teaching position at Los Angeles Pacific College if we moved to California. Why would God open these opportunities and then squash them with a call to India? At our bedside, a monumental clash of wills took place. I knew how Abraham felt when God asked him to go against everything he loved and sacrifice his son, Isaac. Only when Abraham yielded his will fully to the will of God and was ready to obey did a ram appear as an alternative sacrifice in the bushes. I, too, fought for an hour before vowing, “Lord, I will do Your will and go to India, even if I never get a PhD.”
Once God had my will, the ram in the bushes appeared. The President of Spring Arbor Junior College, my alma mater, called and offered me the position as Dean of Men and Instructor in Religion with the opportunity to pursue the PhD at the University of Michigan. It was the call to a lifetime career in Christian higher education and thirty-three consecutive years in positions as president, finalizing at Asbury Theological Seminary. In each case, I accepted the position with the understanding, “If God calls me to India, I will be on the first plane out.”
Strange as it may seem, in all of our world travels, I never saw India. Sixty years after the Estes Chapel service, a surprise call came from Dr. Joab Lohara, a Bishop of the Free Methodist Church of India, telling us about the founding of Immanuel University in Hyderabad, India to serve the Dalits or “untouchables.” He said that after hearing the story of my call to India, he felt inspired to ask if we would let them use our name for the projected College of Education and Leadership. My wife and I prayed about the request and sought counsel, but we knew that this was God’s call to fulfill my commitment. Within months, our youngest son, Robert, Chair of the Industrial/Organizational Psychology Department at Seattle Pacific University, caught the vision for the ministry of Immanuel University and began an annual trip to teach, preach, and coach Indian pastors in leadership development. His address at the dedication of the David and Janet McKenna College of Education and Leadership carried the title, “Closing the Loop,” the story of God’s will that began in Estes Chapel and came to fulfillment at Immanuel University.
It all began from Estes Chapel
In conversation with Frank Bateman Stanger, my predecessor in the presidency at Asbury, he told me of his love for services in Estes Chapel when the students sang the Charles Wesley hymn, “And Can It Be.” Within a few short years, Dr. Stanger died and his memorial service in Estes Chapel was crowned with the singing of his favorite hymn. From that moment on, I determined to keep his legacy alive by naming “And Can It Be” as the Asbury Anthem and asking each incoming class of students to learn the hymn by heart so that they would have full freedom to make the rafters ring in praise to God.
Each morning of retirement, Janet and I sit at our bedroom window overlooking Lake Washington to pray and reflect on the goodness of God in the gift of long life. We are no longer traveling across the country or around the world, but we love to replay the memories of our trips at home and abroad. Our favorite question is to ask, “If you could be transported back to one of your favorite places in the world, where would you choose?” Memory stops have included savoring strawberries and cream at Guyere, Switzerland, reliving the Wesleyan Revival at New Room in Bristol England, peering down on the blue domes of Santorini in the Greek Islands, bowing before Paul’s meeting place in Ephesus on 9/11, hearing a thousand nightingale voices sing “How Great Thou Art” in Seoul, Korea, climbing the stops of The Masada in Israel, and keynoting the World Methodist Council in Nairobi, Kenya. But, after circling the world, Jan and I came home to the memory of Estes Chapel where students, faculty, and staff join the Chapel Choir and the resounding organ to sing, “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me!” In fact, during the years when I traveled for Asbury Seminary I frequently met with people who had never been on the campus. After making my formal presentation of facts and figures, I always concluded with clincher, “If I could waft you from this place to Estes Chapel on the campus when the students are singing, ‘And Can It Be’ you would be an Asburian forever.” So yes, Jan and I agreed that if we could choose to return to one place in our travels, it would be to make one more stop at Estes Chapel and join in the singing of the Asbury Anthem. As Wesleyans we do not idolize “sacred places,” but we do remember “holy presence.” Estes Chapel is not sacred in itself, but it is certainly a place where Asburians take off their shoes to walk on holy ground.