Come, All Ye Faithful

May 5, 2007
photo - Shove Memorial Chapel is celebrating its 75th anniversary Sunday. The church, originally built as an interdenominational Christian church, has since become a place for gatherings of members of many religions. (BRYAN OLLER, THE GAZETTE) Photo by
Shove Memorial Chapel is celebrating its 75th anniversary Sunday. The church, originally built as an interdenominational Christian church, has since become a place for gatherings of members of many religions. (BRYAN OLLER, THE GAZETTE) Photo by  
Prayers of the faithful rose to the rafters Thursday during an interfaith gathering at Shove Memorial Chapel — messages floating on invisible waters to unseen shores.
These prayers — Jewish and Christian, Muslim and Buddhist — might have been in different tongues, perhaps sent to different gods. No matter: Shove, interfaith capital of Colorado Springs, held and heard them all. Shove, located on the Colorado College campus, will celebrate its 75th anniversary Sunday with organ music, speeches and a reading of the original 1931 dedication ceremony. It’s rare for a building to get this kind of pat on the back. But according to those who work inside, it’s an honor well deserved. This is a church where stained-glass windows honor Archimedes and Charles Darwin along with Jesus, where words from an Islamic poet are inscribed on an 11,000-pound bell, where Buddhist prayer cushions lie stacked in sight of a luminous Christ Triumphant. It has gargoyles, a spiral staircase and a quirky character all its own. “In many ways, the building feels like a member of the professional staff,” said the Rev. Bruce Coriell, Colorado College’s chaplain. “It has personality. It has a kind of efficacy that’s hard to describe.” Shove (rhymes with “grove”) was dedicated in 1931 — a $325,000 gift to the campus from CC board of trustees member Eugene Shove, who wanted to honor his clergymen ancestors. Shove’s forebears came from a variety of ecclesiastical backgrounds, and from the beginning the chapel was intended as a place for interdenominational Christian worship. As the college and country became more pluralistic, Shove opened up to interfaith worship as well. Coriell believes the building’s current multifaith focus holds true to Shove’s original intent. “I just really think the building holds the spiritual center for the campus, even though the campus itself isn’t a religious institution,” he said. Buddhist groups meditate in Shove’s morning chapel, and CC’s Catholic group gathers here, too. An Anglican church worships Sunday mornings, and a student-run coffee shop runs most evenings in the basement. It’s been a site for lectures, debates, weddings and rock concerts, and sometimes it welcomes students and visitors who just want to sit and ponder life for a while. “It feels really good to me there,” said Rabbi Anat Moskowitz, CC’s campus rabbi. “What CC has done is create a holy space to allow different religions to participate.” Nonetheless, Shove Memorial Chapel began as a Christian church and is filled with Christian symbolism. The building’s footprint is that of a cross, with the platform, choir and organ located at the top of the cross and the bell tower positioned above the center, where the two sections of the cross meet. Though only 75 years old, it was built to look ancient: Its Romanesque style, characterized in part by the arched windows found throughout, actually predates the Gothic architecture of most medieval cathedrals. “An attempt has been made to keep the design quiet, unassuming and dignified, and at the same time have mass and height sufficient to dominate the other buildings on the campus,” Shove architect John Gray wrote in 1938. Chapel manager Linda Madden said the building was loosely based on England’s original Winchester Cathedral, which was replaced by a more Gothic structure around the 15th century. Symbolism in Shove is everywhere, extending to the space itself. Shove’s main entryway is a small, dark, windowless space — an architectural womb, as it were, before experience and knowledge allow visitors to see a wider world. The narthex — essentially a church foyer — is bigger, symbolizing a more childlike understanding of the world, but visitors are quickly drawn to the long, soaring nave. It’s a huge, impressive space, but still purposefully dark — the state in which we exist throughout most of our mortal life, the architecture says: Humanity is full of knowledge, but not full knowledge. The pros and cons to the nave’s dingy atmosphere have been debated over the years, according to Madden. But the only lights added to the space illuminate the stained glass windows, not the room. In the midst of this dark space, the visitor’s eyes are drawn to the light-bathed front of the church, where elaborately carved twin spires encase undulating rows of organ pipes, and a brightly painted ceiling glows with words and symbols. It symbolizes heaven — a place of final and lasting illumination. Behind the twin-towered facade lie the rest of the organ’s 3,065 pipes. A rare 10-petal rose window rests above the organ and honors the seven classical liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) and the three faculties at medieval universities (law, medicine and theology). The petals surround a Byzantine-style Jesus. Other figures — religious and historic — are enshrined in the church’s stained glass. The church’s bell tower is accessed by a spiral staircase. From the nave, visitors can see the trap door through which the bells were raised. The roof of the tower is one of Shove’s most idyllic spots. From it visitors can look down at Colorado College and downtown Colorado Springs. Sometimes Madden gives students the key to the rooftop, and CC once gave away a rooftop dinner. The church is open most days, despite some concerns there wouldn’t be enough people to staff and watch over it. Coriell argued that “The building will take care of itself,” and despite some wear and tear on the pews, that’s been largely the case. “When people come in, they’re drawn to respect the place,” Coriell said. “People have a sense of its spirit.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0367 or SHOVE 75TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION Where: 1010 N. Nevada Ave. When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday What: The anniversary will feature a concert by organists Frank Shelton, Carol Wilson, Ed Ladaceur, Joe Galema, Colleen Peterson and CC student Tom Johnson. Colorado College President Richard Celeste, professor Tim Fuller and college Chaplain Bruce Coriell will speak. A reception will follow on the north lawn. The event is free and open to the public. A TROVE OF SHOVE . . . INFORMATION - Stained glass windows in the nave trace the history of Christianity in England, beginning when St. Paul is said to have baptized Claudia and Pudens in A.D. 51 to St. Swithun’s reign as Bishop of Winchester in 862. - The chancel ceiling is covered with Christian symbols. Triangles, representing the trinity, are used throughout, as are the Greek letters alpha and omega, plus doves, cups (signifying the Holy Grail) and nails. Written in gold are the words “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory. Glory be to Thee, O Lord most high.” - The main stained glass window in the Morning Chapel is the only one that features children. - The smallest pipe in Shove’s organ is a half-inch straw of wheat. The largest is 16 feet high and made of sugar pine. The organ’s console was restored in 1999. - Stones from Winchester Cathedral, Gatton Church, King’s College Chapel in Cambridge and Christ Church Dining Hall in Oxford are incorporated into the church. - Shove has two gargoyles, one a stylized mountain lion and the other a timber wolf. Architect John Gray thought it would be better to incorporate the visages of real local creatures than use templates from gargoyles found in Europe. - The rose windows in the transepts — the arms of the cross footprint — include images of Copernicus, Galileo and Charles Darwin on the north window; philosopher Roger Bacon, poet Petrarch and theologian Melancthon are found on the south window. - The five bells in the bell tower weigh a collective 8.5 tons and are run by an electronic sound system. The hour bell, the largest, was cast in England in 1931 and rings a booming G-sharp. A line from Muslim poet Kahlil Gibran runs around the top of the bell: “Yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
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