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Colorado CollegeBulletin | March 2006
by Ginger Morgan

Shove Chapel

Bulwark of CC Religious Life

Shove Memorial Chapel will celebrate its 75th anniversary during the 2006-2007 academic year, as well as the one-year anniversary of its being named to the National Register of Historic Places. Alumni of many generations have varying recollections of Shove: as the scene of mandatory chapel on Tuesday mornings; as a quiet place to reflect and pray; as a building to walk past on the way to Olin; as the tower with the most spectacular view of Colorado Springs.

I came to Colorado College in 1982 from a Christian international school in India attended by Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Zoroastrian, and agnostic students. Colorado College did not strike me as a particularly religiously diverse place then. I was aware of the Seekers, who met at First Presbyterian Church, and the Jewish student group, Chaverim. And who can forget the grace and presence of Kenneth Burton, chaplain and religion professor, whose rich voice and incomparable accent offered such trustworthy advice?

Burton initiated Shove Council, inviting students of different (or no specific) faith perspectives to gather over lunch and have, as Hilary Nieburg Baskin '85 puts it, "great theological, philosophical, and ideological discussions. I think I was the only Jewish student; there were born-again Christians and some who were not religious at all. Kenneth made an effort to be as inclusive as possible. There was definitely debate; it wasn't all vanilla conversation. But it was always respectful."

For those of my generation, mandatory chapel at CC is hard to imagine. Bard Brown '54 notes, "We had to go to chapel once a week, but I don't think it helped our spirituality." It turns out that mandatory chapel at Colorado College was reinstituted when Shove opened in 1931, to little fanfare. Faculty and the Board of Trustees decided to move to voluntary daily devotional service in the spring of 1927, after a sustained surge of student protest against mandatory chapel following WWI. (Consult Professor Juan Reid's "Colorado College: The First Century, 1874-1974" for a richer discussion of this history.) Chapel attendance remained mandatory until 1956.

During the 1960s and '70s, the college trended toward secularism; in the 1980s and '90s, CC regularly landed on Princeton Review's list of the top 20 schools where "Students Ignore God on a Regular Basis." However, CC is no longer found on that list. What has changed? When Kenneth Burton announced his impending retirement in early 1988, then-President Gresham Riley charged a task force to evaluate the college's needs, anticipating three possible outcomes: discontinue the chaplaincy program, maintain the Burton model, or envision a new model. The task force blended the second and third options, launching a search for a new chaplain who could make the campus hospitable to people of different faiths and to serve as a public voice of conscience for the institution.

Todd Breyfogle '88, a student on that task force, remembers "a strong sense that it was appropriate to have both a religion department and a chapel program - that a liberal arts college had distinct but complementary academic and spiritual needs." After an intensive nationwide search, Bruce Coriell was hired in 1988 to take on the chaplaincy and the newly formulated charge.

Reflecting on his early years, Coriell notes that the role as the "public voice of conscience" for the institution dominated his efforts. In addition to the "public voice" role, Coriell wanted to reopen Shove for more regular use - make it available to the broader community as well as the CC community, for more than just weddings or large college events. He concluded that in order to be seen as an advocate for religious pluralism, he would have to stop leading worship services on campus, instead fostering student religious groups and relationships with community congregations and religious groups.

"Almost immediately when I stopped leading worship in Shove, other groups started to use it," recalls Coriell. Local Buddhist meditation groups came to Shove, welcomed CC students, and have continued to this day. Pagan students began to identify themselves and organize on campus. When Coriell arrived, there were four or five spiritual student groups on campus. Today there are 25 (more than half of which are Christian).

Coriell's other most noticeable effort was to expand community service opportunities for students. The CC soup kitchen began in Shove Chapel, as did the first opportunities for alternative spring break and BreakOut service trips, led by students like Suzie Klein '90. During Coriell's tenure, Shove has been used for a masquerade ball, theater productions, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, meditation, cleansing rituals for survivors of physical sexual abuse, memorials, city-wide celebrations of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, an annual gospel music concert, shamanic healings, and residence-hall wing parties atop the bell tower, among other events.

Students of differing (or no) religious faith still meet every Wednesday over lunch in Shove Council to discuss topics of theological, philosophical, and ideological interest. The chapel hosts a once-per-block informal "Faculty and Faith" series where students can listen to their favorite professors talk about how they understand faith and what grounds their sense of meaning and value. The CC Catholic community thrives under the lay leadership of Valerie Vela Klassen '85. This year, Sacred Grounds coffee house opened in Shove's basement to serve fair-trade products amid a student community vibe. The life of the spirit at Colorado College is alive and thriving, and while it is not limited to the programs and activities in Shove, the chapel remains the hub for religious and spiritual life at CC.

As Chaplain Bruce Coriell muses, "I consider Shove Chapel a member of my staff. No matter what else happens, I can trust the chapel to do what is needed for those who come."

Celebrating Shove's First 75 Years

The five bells still toll for students late to class, the gray limestone edifice still grounds the west end of the quad, but much else about Shove Memorial Chapel has changed since its Depression-Era construction.

Last year, at the relatively young age of 74, Colorado College’s chapel achieved a milestone: it was named to the National Register of Historic Places — the campus’s ninth structure to be so designated. The chapel has hosted innumerable alumni weddings, musical recitals, addict support meetings, and rooftop pizza parties in addition to religious services of many stripes, from 1950s mandatory chapel to last year’s 9/11 interfaith service, presided over by Imam Ibrahim Karazooni, Rabbi Erv Ehrlich, and the Rev. Dr. Laura Mendenhall.

The chapel’s construction and endowment were funded primarily by CC Trustee Eugene Percy Shove, who wanted to memorialize his clergymen ancestors. Architect John Gray chose a “severe Norman interpretation” of Romanesque style for the cross-shaped building to give it both dignity and enough mass to dominate the campus. A fund-raising campaign is now underway to restore the chapel’s 3,065-pipe organ.

Learn about the rose window of the south transept of Shove Memorial Chapel.