LRU News

Grace blossoms in the heart of LR – University names newest building “Grace Chapel”

Wed Apr 23 2014

HICKORY, N.C. — As Lenoir Rhyne’s latest construction project comes into its final months the University has announced the chapel’s name.

The building that sits in the center of campus and symbolizes the institution’s ongoing determination to remain committed to its Christian roots will henceforth be known as: Grace Chapel.

While the name Grace is prevalent among churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America, with which LR is affiliated, LR is the very first Lutheran university in America to name its on-campus house of worship Grace.

LR’s leadership determined at the outset that its chapel would not be a naming opportunity for any individual. Other universities have named their chapels after saints, donors or assorted theological concepts, but Lenoir-Rhyne stands alone in its unique embrace of Grace—a name chosen over more than 20 ecclesiastical choices suggested.

LR’s Chapel Name Task Group was issued a simple but difficult job:

Select a name that would:

1. Endure through the ages

2. Show inclusiveness of all of God’s people

3. Be unique

4. Represent all that we believe

Early on the group decided it was important to select a name that would actually be used instead of becoming a formality while people refer to the structure as “the chapel.”

“The concept of grace refers to God’s unmerited favor, but there’s more to it than that,” said LR’s Campus Pastor Dr. Andrew Weisner. “It is a concept that permeates the Old Testament, and its Greek root, charis, is found no fewer than 152 times in the New Testament. God’s grace also accounts for His goodness, providence and leadership. Moments of grace abound throughout the Bible including the New and Old Testaments. And the theological concept of grace forms the foundation of Augustinian, Reformation, and Lutheran theology.”

There is perhaps no greater concept in scripture than that of grace.

“For adherents of any religion, but especially Christians, grace is at the heart of the relationship between humans and God,” said the Chair of LR’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. David Ratke. “God reaches out to humans because God loves humans and indeed loves all of creation. Naming the chapel ‘Grace’ reminds believers everywhere that God welcomes everybody. The name ‘Grace Chapel’ proclaims to all, ‘You are welcome!’”

The name represents a claim held by Lenoir-Rhyne, Lutheranism and other churches: God’s abundant grace is given to all. All adornments of LR’s chapel, and all activities within – from the simplest to the most sublime – will be instances of “God’s grace.”

“I think we sometimes assume grace is reserved for special occasions, for when we’ve really messed up and want God to love us again as if, contra St. Paul, we have indeed separated ourselves from the love of God,” said LR’s theology professor and Director of Youth and Family Ministry Program Dr. Mindy Makant. “But grace isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card; grace isn’t God loving us again despite our sinfulness. Grace is at the center of all that is. Grace is God’s creative and sustaining work in and among us, whether we recognize it or not.”

The concept of grace is in direct opposition to that human impulse that convinces us that once we do enough good things that we can achieve the status of “good enough” and God will have no choice but to accept us on our own terms.

“Grace in the biblical tradition is God taking the initiative to reach out to humanity. It’s the beginning point for faith. Without it, there is no faith or redemption,” said LR religion professor Dr. Jonathan Schwiebert. “In the Hebrew Bible grace is known as ‘lovingkindness,’ God’s faithfulness to God’s people. In the New Testament, God’s grace takes the form of Christ coming to humanity and taking upon himself human weakness for our sake. Here God reaches out even to people who are alienated from God, and brings them home.”

It is LR’s hope that grace will abound in its chapel.

“Everything that goes on in there will be moments of God’s grace—the play on words will be delightfully rich,” Weisner said. “When we’re holding services in the chapel and I say ‘Here we are in the midst of God’s Grace,’ I will be referring to God’s lavish goodness and love as well as the physical building surrounding us.”

The chapel’s name represents the University’s mission, which extends beyond the walls of any one of LR’s buildings.

“LR attempts to be a means of grace. Goodness comes to the participants of LR’s community through their connection to Lenoir-Rhyne,” Weisner said. “From the members of the community who partake in the Visiting Writers Series and the Concert Series to the students who enroll in classes at LR, our community is enriched by God’s grace, which is evident on this campus.”

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