The dedication crowd on May 27, 1962.
The Chapel is the vision and gift of
Ray M. Petersime, former member of
the Board of Trustees.
Newlyweds Linda Sands '66 and
Phil '66 Frantz pose with their parents.
TYPICAL MANCHESTER STUDENTS "back in the day," Linda Sands '66 and Phil Frantz '66 didn't have many resources. "We were very poor," Linda puts it bluntly.
So when the campus sweethearts decided to marry during their sophomore year on Dec. 21, 1963, they wanted a small, simple wedding. Petersime Chapel was perfect.
"We both love Manchester College, and we are both natives of North Manchester," says Linda, an education major who is a retired kindergarten teacher. "The Chapel is quaint and pretty, with the stained glass windows, and it was just the perfect size."
They said their vows, held the reception, and opened their gifts – all in Petersime Chapel. More than 47 years later, the Frantzes are still happily married and living in Portland, Ind., where Phil is an attorney in private practice.
And Petersime Chapel remains steeple-tall at the core of campus.
The cruciform-shaped structure is still the setting for inspirational events: worship, weddings, memorial services, Bible studies, Simply Brethren, campus programs, commissioning "send-offs" for students doing volunteer service abroad and other gatherings. (It's also witnessed unofficial moments, such as when a student snapped off part of the decorative metal cross while "rock climbing" the Chapel walls.)
Nowadays, services begin at 3:30 p.m. each Thursday, attended by students, faculty, staff and sometimes, their children. The six-rank pipe organ, bell-ringers, drummers, pianists and other musicians, choirs, a weekly Praise Jam and worshippers fill the 100-seat Chapel with music and praise. Campus groups still find the Chapel a comfortable gathering spot, and a local church uses the facility for its weekly services.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, the College will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Petersime Chapel, beginning with a special Homecoming program on Saturday, Oct. 8.
It all began with the vision of Ray M. Petersime of Gettysburg, Ohio, who served on the Manchester College Board of Trustees for more than three decades, and owned a prosperous poultry incubator business. He wanted to share some of his good fortune to enhance spiritual life at the College.
"He always wanted a chapel at the College," said his daughter, Esther Petersime '57 Clark, who married James Clark in the Chapel in July 1963. "He felt they needed something more. He wanted it to be a rather special place."
Ray Petersime paid close attention to every detail of the construction, traveling around the country to find exactly the right wood and stone. She doesn't recall how much money he put into it. "That wasn't to be the important part," she said.
Petersime worked closely with architect Arthur Dean, a "building counselor" for the Church of the Brethren who had designed buildings for several Indiana congregations. The Board of Trustees approved Dean's plan for Manchester's Meditation Chapel on April 1, 1960, and construction began that fall.
The relationship of the Christian faith to higher education is illustrated in 30 stained glass windows. In addition to a popular lounge area and offices, Petersime has prayer rooms and small meeting rooms.
"The Chapel is set like a precious jewel in the midst of some of Manchester's famous oaks," said Trustee Paul W. Kinsel '32 at the May 27, 1962 dedication service. "Located at the heart of the campus, it symbolizes the spiritual reality which lies at the very center of the purpose and program, of the ideas and ideals of Manchester College."
Much debate ensued about how the new Chapel would serve the campus. President A. Blair Helman envisioned a prayer and devotional space, with another, large chapel at the north end of the mall for "public worship." The two buildings would face each other as "a symbol of the centrality of religion in the program of Manchester College."
The larger building, however, would become Cordier Auditorium, and Petersime Chapel remained the center of College religious life, as well as a campus landmark.
"It is probably the most-photographed building on campus," said James Dean '66, son of the Chapel architect. "It sits in an appropriate place, I'll tell you that. I'm just proud my father did it."
Later in the 1960s the chapel served as a sanctuary for black students during the turbulent Civil Rights Era. As tensions flared on campus and in the community, students looked to the Chapel as a safe haven. "It became quite an incident," said Ferne Strohm '58 Baldwin, former College archivist and professor emerita of sociology and social work. "They took refuge overnight in Petersime because they considered that a place where they would be physically safe on campus."
"Many who came from all religious persuasions were married there," Baldwin said. "It wasn't just a Brethren hangout. It never has been. It has been a center on campus for many things – a focal point – both for students and faculty."
Reporter Dawn Wheeler '67x Roberts captured some of those feelings in the May 21, 1964 issue of The Oak Leaves. Her article opened with a poetic tribute:
"It stands there in majestic splendor,
Stained glass windows illuminated with various colors of lights
And steeple lighted against an evening sky.
We are all proud of it."
BY WALT WILTSCHEK, CAMPUS PASTOR
Sprucing up Petersime
To prepare for the golden anniversary of Petersime Chapel, the College plans numerous renovations and updates to the structure, including new carpet and entrance canopies. To donate to the improvements, contact the Office of College Advancement.