History of Estes Chapel

The Story of Estes Chapel’s Rededication

On May 8th, 2018, Asbury Theological Seminary experienced a chapel service no one in attendance would soon forget.

Estes Chapel has been a focal point of the life and faith of Asbury since it was first built in 1954. Hailed as one of the most beautiful chapels in the area, there are numerous chapel services, special events and weddings held in Estes each year. There are testimonies upon testimonies of people who have encountered transformational moments with God in that space, and very few people who enter into that space leave the same way they came in. There really is no telling how many prayers have been uttered in that space or how many tears shed. Surely the Lord has counted every heart that has been mended in that space.

As the chapel aged, the first major issue came from the roof, which had begun to leak. In time, the chapel began to need more extensive repairs. ATS went through extensive inspections and worked to determine how much it would cost to fully renovate the space and not only make necessary repairs to the structure, but to update the facility to function in ways to fit the community’s growing modern needs. And, with those dreams in our hearts, we began the task of raising funds so we might honor the legacy that had been handed down to us over 60 years ago.

Altogether, Asbury raised $1,889,947.04 for the renovation of Estes Chapel. Of the more than 2000 donations that came in, 88.15% of them came from alumni. Every single one of those alumni gave sacrificially, because their own lives were transformed in that place. Every dollar of that money is a testimony to what God has done in the lives of his people there. All the glory truly does belong to Him! He was faithful to provide the funding to invest in the next 60 years of lives that will be transformed in that space. So, we began our part with all the planning, the meetings with contractors, the decisions, the building, the troubleshooting, and the polishing until every last piece was completed.

During the renovations, contractors installed a new roof, energy-efficient windows, new paint and new carpet. New, low-profile multimedia screens were installed on either side of the chancel area and at the back of the chapel, and new chandeliers were added to lend a highly adjustable, warm glow to the space. All the woodwork and original pews were carefully removed and lovingly restored to their original luster. The chancel area was extended and modified to become more accessible. In addition, state-of-the art equipment was installed to allow for live streaming of chapel services to all our alumni and friends around the world.

Finally, it was time! Just as the candle of the Presence led the way out of Estes when construction began, a beautiful child led us all back into our beloved chapel by carrying in the candle that signifies God’s very Presence in our midst. We paraded in all the tangible elements of our worship with great joy and celebration, then the seminary choir marched in, wearing the same blue robes the choir has worn in that chancel for decades! We watched an inspiring video about the history and repair of Estes, seen above, then we opened with prayer. What a glorious sound when the choir called us to worship with these words:

This is a day of celebration!
This is the day to praise
Almighty God who loves and sustains us,
faithful in every way.
Lord we join with your people down through the ages
Your mighty deeds to share!
You have been faithful to all generations,
this truth we now declare:
You are a great and awesome God!
Your wonders we proclaim!
You are our rock, our strength, our shield,
from age to age the same!
You forgive us all our sins,
You transform us with your love.
With joyful, grateful hearts we sing,
You are a great and awesome God!

We prayed together, read Scripture, and the choir sang an arrangement of Holy Holy Holy that charged the air with the raw power of God inhabiting the worship of his people. Then, we heard a sermon from Dr. Tennent that left many with tears in their eyes as they recalled the goodness of God. On that sweet day, we rededicated more than just a chapel. Many of us rededicated our own hearts, not only to the Lord, but to his service. It seemed like we also rededicated a community – a community called to be a light to the nations and to present the whole Bible for the whole world.

It feels like there is something different in the air here at Asbury as we worship in this renewed space with our new hymnals that speak of our own faith and our own legacy…our sense of place and belonging…the deep theology that has been passed down for thousands of years. Can it be that as we renovated our space that the Lord renovated our hearts? Can it be that the Holy One breathed fresh life into our souls just as we brushed fresh paint on those walls? It seems we heard our answer as we finished in Asbury style, belting out our beloved war cry, And Can It Be.

Watch the service below: