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Duke community celebrates Chapel reopening Wednesday

The Chapel was closed a year ago for renovations and repairs.

<p>The Duke community celebrated the reopening of the Duke Chapel Wednesday morning.&nbsp;</p>

The Duke community celebrated the reopening of the Duke Chapel Wednesday morning. 

After being closed for the past year, the Duke Chapel reopened Wednesday in a day-long ceremony.

The Chapel closed May 11, 2015, when the University deemed renovations necessary after a piece of the ceiling collapsed in 2012. President Richard Brodhead and Luke Powery, dean of the Duke Chapel, kicked off the celebration with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, after which Duke community members were allowed to enter the building for the first time in a year.

"This is the most beautiful building in the American South," Brodhead said in a speech to the crowd attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The project cost approximately $19.2 million, according to a Duke Today release, and included replacing the roof, improving the electrical system and restoring the Chapel's stained glass windows. Services were held in Baldwin Auditorium last summer and have been held in Page Auditorium during the academic year while the Chapel underwent renovations. The construction work was the first major restoration of the building since it was built in the 1930s.  

Brodhead said that the Chapel has always been part of the University's history, noting that Duke's founder James B. Duke had insisted on having a "great towering church" on campus. 

"Duke Chapel has been etched into the mind and hearts of anyone who has anything to do with this University," Brodhead said. "Anyone who has ever been here has seen and received the unbelievable impression of this place."

Although home to a Christian congregation, Brodhead noted that the Chapel is a place for people of all faiths as well as those without a faith, explaining that the Chapel is a symbol of Duke.

Going a year without the Chapel served as a "year of chastisement" and "exile," Brodhead explained, which reminds Duke to practice the values that the Chapel reflects and symbolizes.

Powery echoed Brodhead's remarks, noting that he is extremely grateful the Chapel has reopened for the Duke community.

“The building is just a symbol that we as a community are also open. It’s a time of renewal and celebration,” Powery said. “For us, just as we started today, when we had the little opening ceremony with President Brodhead on the steps, it’s really the theme of gratitude.”

Powery explained that he wants to make this year a celebration for all that has happened in the past and will happen in the future. He added that he is planning special celebratory events throughout the year to highlight different aspects of the Chapel's ministry.

Both Powery and Brodhead also thanked members of the community—including religious life staff and Duke faculty—for helping ready the Chapel for reopening.

“There is no ‘I’ in chapel,’” Powery said.

Before inviting community members into the Chapel, Powery added that the Chapel reflects Duke’s motto of “Eruditio et Religio”—“knowledge and religion.”

"We invite you to touch the past, experience the present and anticipate the future while joining us on this wonderful mission of hope," he said. 

Powery noted that he expects many people to begin utilizing the Chapel again. 

“The space means so much to many people in different ways,” he said. “Being out of the Chapel, we didn’t have that meaning, we didn’t have that history, so being back in that space, we will draw those who have been coming before and hopefully many others. ”

Students said that they are also excited that the Chapel's renovations are finished.

“It's the center of the campus,” said Matthew Panhans, a Ph.D. student in economics. “Being able to go inside and access it again is an important part of campus.”

Organ demonstrations and guided tours will occur throughout the day. North Carolina Public Radio’s Frank Stasio will host an evening episode of “The State of Things,” a live radio show, in the Chapel between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The day of celebration ends at 10:00 p.m. with Powery and Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life, hosting a prayer for “peace in our time.”

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