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Church in the Chapel (Evanston, Ill.)



The Church in the Chapel is an interdenominational Christian community of Northwestern students, staff, faculty and local community residents who worship at Northwestern’s Alice S. Millar Chapel.

Northwestern University was founded with a Methodist heritage in 1851. Since early in the University’s history, no formal congregation or specific denominational affiliation were established, although regular Sunday services were held and students were encouraged to attend. After the construction of the Alice S. Millar Chapel, a group of students, staff, faculty and community residents began attending services conducted by the University Chaplain on a continuing basis. These services were referred to as ‘the church in the chapel’. In 1971, these regular attendees considered the idea of forming a formal congregation. After much discussion, a nondenominational group was formed.

The congregation held its first official business meeting on May 9, 1971. It chose to retain “The Church in the Chapel” as the official name of the congregation. Membership is by affirmation of the covenant statement and presupposes Christian baptism and a profession of Christian faith. Individuals may also be members of another church. On February 20, 1972, sixty-one people affirmed the covenant statement for the first time in the Alice S. Millar Chapel.

University Chaplain Ralph G. Dunlop served as pastor from the Church in the Chapel’s beginning until 1973. James E. Avery took over as the second pastor in 1973 and served until 1986. In September of 1979, over 200 members reaffirmed the covenant statement. In 1986, University Chaplain Timothy S. Stevens became the third pastor of the Church in the Chapel.

The University Chaplain conducts Sunday services in the Millar Chapel only during the academic year. In order to have year round services, members of the congregation took on the responsibility for conducting services during recesses and summers. At first these services were held in members’ homes, but they moved later to the Vail Chapel.

The Church in the Chapel has a well defined committee structure. The congregation of the affirmed when meeting as a whole forms the governing body. However, an elected Steering Committee handles the actual business of the congregation. Four other committees were originally created: Liturgy, Education, Social Life, and Social Action. The Liturgy Committee planned the liturgy services during academic breaks and provided lectors and ushers during the regular year. The Education Committee set up a Sunday school for children and later became known as the Pastoral Committee when its role expanded to include adult study groups. The Social Life Committee organized social activities such as dinners and retreats. The Social Action Committee collected the Sunday offerings and determined how to distribute the funds to appropriate charities. Since the University relieved the congregation of financial responsibility for the maintenance of the chapel and the services of the University Chaplain, the congregation could concentrate on spending the donations to support social action initiatives.

The Social Action Committee’s work has been very significant. Over the years the Committee has chosen several areas of concern to address. In 1983, it recognized a need to assist citizens in war-torn El Salvador. After initially considering offering sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant, the Social Action Committee eventually established a sister church in 1987 with Colonial 22 de Abril, a congregation of displaced persons in El Salvador. The congregation has continued its support by sponsoring trips to El Salvador during University spring breaks. The committee has also contributed to entities such as the Evanston Community Committee, the health agency MAP International, and the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Records of the Church in The Chapel (Alice Millar Chapel)

Identifier: 0/23/1

The Church in the Chapel is an interdenominational Christian community of Northwestern students, staff, faculty and local community residents who worship at Northwestern's Alice S. Millar Chapel. The Records of the Church in the Chapel consist of organizational and membership materials and the records of five committees: Steering, Liturgical, Education, Social, and Social Action .

Dates: 1971-2001