A little white prayer chapel sits in the center of Multnomah’s campus. It’s hemmed in by hydrangea puffs and leafy foliage, and its cross-topped steeple pokes above the birch and cherry trees that cast their shade against its whitewashed walls. Inside, the sunlight filters through pale magenta windowpanes onto rows of oaken pews. It smells slightly aged — like a room matured by many visitors.
The altar is the centerpiece. There is a simple wooden cross and mahogany Wurlitzer piano with a worn-out bench and open hymnbook. Above it is a stained glass image of the cross overshadowing the globe.
Those who seek the Lord have found him in the sacred silence of this hiding place.
The Center of Campus
Since its construction in 1957, the little building has been a quiet refuge, a safe hideaway, a quaint aesthetic addition, and an invitation to enter into a different sort of lifestyle.
“The chapel was built to provide a place on campus for students to get away and talk to the Lord,” says Distinguished Professor Emeritus David Needham.
“Prayer at MU is taken seriously,” says Vice President of Advancement Steve Cummings. “Everything we do is bathed in prayer because we know that we don’t move forward unless the Lord leads us.”
Alumna Emi Koe remembers the reason for the chapel’s central location: “The slogan when we were students was that the prayer chapel was the center of campus as prayer should be the center of our lives,” she says.
“It is a true and meaningful symbol to have the prayer chapel with its clean, white lines and its steeple pointing toward God in the center of campus,” adds alumna Gail Lundquist. “May it truly be Multnomah’s desire to have prayer as the foundation for everything.”
‘A Different Kind of Quiet’
But the chapel isn’t only a symbol, of course.
At the beginning of her sojourn at Multnomah, Regina Molokomme slipped into the prayer chapel to commit the next few years to the Lord. In response to God’s calling, she had recently moved from South Africa to enroll in seminary.
“I did not know about the journey ahead of me, but I just presented myself to God,” she says. From complete funding for school, to strength for her studies, to a vision for the future, Molokomme has consistently received God’s provision.“My prayers have been answered in that place,” she says.
While it serves as a site of initial dedication, the prayer chapel is also a space for continued communion with God. “When I am there, I am affirmed that he is with me,” says youth ministry major Josh Smith.
“It’s a holy place set apart from the stress of academia,” says English major Rebekah Nayduik. “There’s a peace when you walk in.”
English major Sierra McKinney agrees. “It’s a different kind of quiet. I walked in and felt this calmness.”
Throughout the process of schooling at MU, biblical studies major Curtis Bell spent intentional time in the silence provided by the prayer chapel. “I remember my best friend Cory and I praying in there daily,” he says. “We broke down and prayed for our families. We were even on the floor weeping. Those were precious moments with my best friend and the Lord.”
Alumnus Larry Day remembers similar moments within. “I would go there for quiet time when I was confused about what God wanted,” he says. “It’s a significant place to me.”
A few years ago, Day and his wife decided to refurbish the prayer chapel at their own expense. They replaced the pews, adjusted the altar area, and added a soft new carpet so that people could spend time on their knees. “There is something that happens to our soul when we kneel before God,” Day says.
Master of Arts in Counseling student Zach Jones noticed that the intimacy of the prayer chapel was also perfect for a different kind of kneeling. With the romantic addition of decorative lights and music, he proposed to his wife Sarah inside of it.
“The chapel will always be special to us,” Sarah says. “It reminds us that God was in our lives long before each other; he’s the one that brought us together.”
The Legacy Continues
After the graduation gown has been donned, and the diploma presented, and the path away from Multnomah has been blazed, the prayer chapel still stands as a monument; it’s a place for returning and reflecting.
Alumnus Scott Burns remembers God’s faithfulness whenever he visits. Although it’s a long way from his home in England, he continues to stop in from time to time.
“I’ve spent numerous hours with God in that tiny little building,” he says. “It resulted in me walking forward with a greater awareness of my need for Jesus and knowing how desperately I need His power to be at work in and through me.”
As the years roll on and the steady stream of quiet visitors filters in and out, the prayer chapel remains the birthplace of vision, the assurance of God’s presence, the place where prayers are answered, and a reminder of what he has done in each life that passes through.