A Chapel “In the Round”
Reverend Talmage Skinner recalls how SMC’s Davis Mission Chapel, built in 1976 as part of the college’s Campus Long Range Master Plan got its unique shape
This article appeared originally in the Fall/Winter issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Spartanburg Methodist College has always been a great place to be, at this time, at any time! It’s not only about what happens in that math class, but participating in activities on campus, going to chapel, being part of teams, beginning to relate to a broad group of people – people who are not like you – that’s all part of the education. All of those things are important.
Before the new chapel was built, there was Blackwood Chapel at the back of Judd Hall. Well, the college needed housing, so Blackwood Chapel was made into student rooms. We had our worship service every week down in the Fireplace Room of Burgess Student Center. We put all the chairs in a circle, put a lectern in front of one of them and put an altar out in the middle. We established an ‘in the round’ experience.
“I recall speaking to the board of trustees and telling them I’d be just ﬁne if we had a small room designated as the chapel, where we could do worship. Vera Parsons was on the board, and when I said that, I saw her take out her pen and start to write. And it hadn’t been a week before Jim Barrett called and said, ‘Vera Parsons is going to give us a chapel.”
“When I started talking with the architect about the plans, I told
him about our services down in the Fireplace Room. And that’s why we built the chapel in a circle: so that the person in the back row is really not that far away from the altar. The idea for the skylight was to uplift the souls of everyone who came to worship, and we went to a lot of trouble to get that stained glass with the Methodist cross and flame in a shape that reflected the shape of the building. And because the chapel windows were all glass, the architect thought it best to place a stone wall around the outside to protect them.”
“Vera Parsons paid for it all, and she let us make all the decisions; she didn’t get involved in it. But there was one thing she put her foot down on and said ‘no’ to. We wanted pretty carpet, but she said there would be people coming into chapel with muddy feet. She said you need industrial carpet, and she was right. She was absolutely right.”
The Reverend Talmage Skinner served SMC as chaplain and chair of the division of humanities and fine arts from 1968 to 1978. He recently shared his memories about the design of SMC’s Davis Mission Chapel during a conversation recorded at his Raleigh, North Carolina, home in June 2017.