GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL
accolUlts it wasn't a barrel of laughs. It
was the only show offaith in town until
faculty members built an off-campus
chapel in about 1829; the town's first
church didn't open until 1847.
Interest in spiritual matters among stu-
dents flows and ebbs. Low tide probably
occurred in the late 1960s, about the same
time academics were getting queasy about
the separation of church and state; there's
a good bit of evidence of a resurgence
now. Sixty-five year after the end of
compulsory worship negated the need for
a campus chapel, the question has been
asked: Why don't we have a place to
gather, to meditate, to understand others'
faiths, to celebrate?
Bronwyn Leech ' 98 can't put her fin-
ger on the moment that made her write
to the chancellor. "I wish this question
were easier to answer because it's what
everyone wants to know," she
said. "I guess I was won-
dering, why are so
many people who
went to Carolina
getting married at
proposal, the note-
books she's stuffed
with everything she
can find on interest in
and the practice ofreli-
gion on the Carolina cam-
pus, her extensive networking here
and on other campuses, belie any idea that
this is just about a place to get hitched.
Leech, a journalism and mass communication major who grew up in Chapel Hill
and who now works in UNC's under-
graduate admissions office, said she'd
known people who didn't have a place to
go to learn about faiths different from
their own - and that they found it awk-
ward to encounter other faiths on their
"There's no neutral ground."
The proposal, sent to Chancellor
James Moeser early last summer, calls for
the University to:
• Establish a non-denominational place
Nove m be r / D ece mb er 20 01
of reflection, quiet thought and spiritual
inquiry on campus.
• Establish a non-denominational spiritual venue on canlpus for alumni, students, faculty and staff to celebrate life's
major events, such as weddings, baptisms,
funerals and memorial services.
"It pains me greatly," Leech wrote,
"that the University does not offer a spiri-
tual place for its alumni, faculty and staff
to explore their religious convictions and
to celebrate the milestone ceremonies of
She went ahead and picked out a build-
ing: the New Chapel of 1837, the intimate
and somewhat church-like Gerrard Hall.
She urged Moeser to consider keeping me
raised tage and choir loft and to go easy on
the electronic teaching apparatus in the
upcoming renovation of Gerrard.
Moeser said he iliought a lot about
the idea before telling Leech in
a letter, "I do believe the
idea has merit." The
separation of church
and state is not an
issue, Moeser said
in an interview, "as
long as we don't
construct a sectar-
"We do need a
place on this campus
for ceremonies as well as
lectures as well as a place for
quiet reflection, which could well
be there [Gerrard]." Unrelated to the proposal, Moeser postponed me exterior renovations on Gerrard pending a historical
architecture study and deferred a decision
on its use until after that's done. He's
referred Leech's proposal to his cabinet.
Clearly, this latent interest in things
spiritual increased with the events of Sept.
11. The need for a chapel on the Hill hit
home again for Leech when she heard
that the Great Hall ofthe Carolina Union
was set aside for quiet reflection. Her tone
and the roll ofher eyes said what she was
thinking - right sentiment, wrong loca-
tion. The Great Hall i not a place associated with intinucy or spiritual ambience.