Wesleyan chapel has been 85 years in the making

jmink@macon.comFebruary 13, 2014 

When Wesleyan College relocated from College Street to its current site along Forsyth Road in Macon, there were plans for a chapel at the Methodist-affiliated institution.

About 85 years later, that chapel is under construction.

Wesleyan faculty, staff, alumni and supporters gathered Thursday to celebrate the project and bless the ground where Pierce Chapel will stand. They sang, clapped and praised a project that will finally give Wesleyan an official place to worship. Wesleyan is the only Methodist-affiliated college in Georgia without a dedicated chapel.

“Oh happy day,” said the Rev. William Hurdle, campus pastor.

The $6.3 million chapel, which is entirely funded by private donations, is expected to be finished by early 2015, said Douglas MacMillan, vice president for institutional advancement.

“It’s huge,” MacMillan said about the project. “This is a really exciting day. It’s a multi-generational dream.”

After all, Wesleyan always was meant to have a chapel. When it moved in 1928 from its former location, the campus included a few buildings but no chapel. Still, there was the dream of a chapel, and Wesleyan’s president had inherited the task of raising money for the project. Then the Great Depression hit, and those plans were set aside.

The plan was revived in the 1940s, only to be disrupted by the death of Wesleyan’s president. When the building finally went up in the 1950s, it became a general auditorium and was used to house the fine arts department.

“It was not a chapel,” Wesleyan President Ruth Knox said.

Over the decades, Wesleyan’s ties to the Methodist denomination strengthened, and a campaign began to build the chapel. The Pierce family, which can be traced to the founding of Wesleyan, helped spearhead the effort. For Betty Corn -- a descendant of Wesleyan’s first president, George Foster Pierce -- it’s hard to believe the chapel dream is finally being realized.

“It’s very, very special,” she said.

In fact, the fundraising campaigns garnered more donations than anticipated, MacMillan said. Now, after 85 years of planning, workers are stationed between Hightower and Jones halls, where Pierce Chapel will soon stand.

“This is a milestone in Wesleyan’s history,” Knox said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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