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New Seating in Hendricks Chapel Will Accommodate Growth and Enhance Accessibility
Recent renovations to Hendricks Chapel continue to make history. In February, People’s Place Café celebrated a grand reopening with a renewed interior and updated menu. In May, central air conditioning was turned on in the main chapel for the first time. As of this week, the main chapel now features new interlocking chairs in place of the first six rows of pews.
Since its dedication in 1930, Hendricks Chapel has served as the diverse religious, spiritual, moral and ethical heart of Syracuse University. This latest modification incorporates recent growth, creates greater accessibility and offers more flexible use of the space while honoring the chapel’s historic mission and character.
Hendricks Chapel received more than 136,000 visits and hosted 645 sponsored events during the 2018-19 academic year. These figures reveal a significant increase from 2017-18, when approximately 115,000 visits were recorded. The renewed layout will support the chapel’s increasing engagement surrounding religious, spiritual, moral and ethical life in service to the campus community.
“To witness the ongoing growth in religious and spiritual engagement is a delight,” says Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol. “I am thankful for the outstanding efforts of our chaplains, staff, student leaders and advisors. This latest renovation, which would not be possible without our partners in Campus Planning, Design and Construction, is part of Syracuse University’s larger efforts to foster and support an inclusive, accessible campus of opportunity for a richly diverse student body.”
As part of Hendricks Chapel’s longstanding mission as a “home for all faiths” and “place for all people,” the renovation aligns with Syracuse University’s efforts to foster a climate of inclusion, access and opportunity. Student, staff and faculty leadership were consulted on the project, and it was widely agreed that new seating was a crucial next step in the growth of Hendricks Chapel.
One of the key collaborators was the Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders (S.A.I.L.). The group, which advises the dean of Hendricks Chapel and creates a range of interfaith programs and services, consists of student leaders from numerous religious, spiritual, moral and ethical traditions.
Junjie Ren ’21, convener of S.A.I.L. and president of the Student Buddhist Association, says the change will better serve a new generation of students.
“As a student, a meditator and an advocate for interfaith cooperation, this renovation to Hendricks Chapel is exciting,” says Ren. “This is a major step forward for inclusivity, accessibility and growth in the chapel. I can’t wait to see what possibilities it creates for more students to worship and learn in the space.”
With greater flexibility in the floor plan of the chapel’s largest gathering space, there are now multitudes of possibilities for greater student engagement, a wider variety of programming and the inclusion of more traditions than ever before.
“I am excited and grateful that we are starting the new academic year with a more accommodating main chapel,” says Imam Amir Duric, Muslim chaplain. “I have always considered the chapel an interfaith sanctuary, but we have never been able to use it for our Friday prayer. This change won’t just accommodate the growing number of Muslim students on campus; it will also help them develop a sense of belonging in the chapel.”
Greater flexibility in the space will also support a variety of worship styles, says Elder Melvin Baker, chaplain of the Historically Black Church chaplaincy. “Our worship service utilizes singers, drums and other musical elements to lift up the word of God. We are thrilled to be able to move into the main chapel this semester, which will benefit the quality of our service and the growth of our chaplaincy.”
Jillian Juni, executive director of Syracuse Hillel, says the change will also benefit the Jewish community at the University.
“Hendricks Chapel is an incredible place for our community to gather,” says Juni. “Replacing pews with chairs helps to take a mostly static space and make it dynamic. We look forward to the chapel feeling more inclusive with the added flexibility to build a more intimate setting.”
The chairs, which are placed on new flooring, are of top quality and match the style and appeal of the remaining pews. The chairs are dark brown, as are the backs of the pews, with a red velvet cushioned seat. The interlocking feature will help the chairs to stay in straight lines, but allow for easy removal to offer space for wheelchairs or to open more space on the floor.