|When I arrived as a beginning junior class member on a
Saturday, there was a heavy rainstorm. My radio and lights did not work. I felt alone. Had
I made a mistake in coming to Princeton? On that Monday night, however, I sat in the back
row of Miller Chapel for the small commencement exercises. As the commencement speaker
rose to give his address, I noted a man with a stately gray head, the traditional black
robe, and a bright red tie. I looked in the bulletin and suddenly came alive as I saw the
speakers name Robert E. Speer.
He preached a sermon titled The
Preachers Book. To hear that man already a legend ended any
doubts about my decision to go not just to seminary but to Princeton Seminary. His focus
on the Bible struck home. It was the last time Speer spoke on campus before his
Almost universally, the preachers most admired and remembered are the Seminarys
presidents. Dr. John Mackay, or Jack Mack as he was irreverently and fondly
called by a number of spirited students, preached on a quarterly basis. John Turpin
(M.Div., 1952) can still see Mackay standing between the pulpit and the lectern, his hands
behind his back. Hed speak for 5060 minutes, and we hung on every
word, Turpin says.
Joel Mattison admits being a balcony sitter. Mattisons placement was
what he calls his own self-imposed exile, born of a humility that he was not worthy
to sit near the cross and the table. One time, Mackay preached a sermon about
getting on the road for Christ, and not just sitting in the
balcony. After that sermon, Mattison says he never sat in the balcony again, until a
few years ago when he was checking out the pews as part of the chapel renovation
assessment! John Turpin remembers using this same metaphor a number of times, and although
he was not a balcony sitter in the literal sense, the message struck home with
him as well.
Those who attended Princeton Seminary during the tenure of Dr. James I. McCord remember
fondly his Monday leadership in Miller Chapel. You could always count on hearing
something worth hearing, reminisces Bob Heppenstall. I will always remember
hearing that deep, gravelly voice of Dr. McCords reading the Scripture lesson,
In the year when King Uzziah died
. Listening to Dr. McCord made me proud
to be a Presbyterian, and to be at Princeton. Heppenstalls fondness for McCord
extends beyond his preaching. My father died during my Seminary years,
Heppenstall relates. I was blessed by Dr. McCords pastoral care during a very
sad and painful time in my life.
In the 1970s, there were times when some students felt as though the pulpit in Miller
Chapel was being used as a soapbox, a place where people pressed their own personal
viewpoints. For Art Fogartie (M.Div., 1978), McCords sermons were a saving grace
from the misuse of the pulpit. When McCords bullhorn voice erupted, Hear
the Word of God, it represented not a request, but an imperial summons into the
Shadow of the Most High, writes Fogartie. And though the literary references
often sent me scurrying to the public library and the theological concepts continually
shot past me like the Mad Max truck drivers on Route 1, I listened to the point of
exhaustion lest some pearl of great value slip by without recognition. So I went, every
Monday, to hear the Voice
to stand before the Word
to feel the Presence.
|During the time of the Los Angeles riots and fires that
erupted after the Rodney King verdict, Elaine Hinnant (M.Div., 1989), who was ordained in
Miller Chapel, was serving as an administrator at the Seminary. Both the president,
Dr. Thomas Gillespie, and the campus chaplain, the Rev. Michael Livingston, stood up the
next morning and talked about what was happening in Los Angeles, where both of them had
grown up. They spoke from their hearts to an intensely divided and racially conflicted
issue in our nation and offered leadership to the campus as it was responding, too. That
day stands out in my memory as the one time that national and world conflict were really
spoken about in relation to our life at PTS.
Some of Carmen Fowlers (M.Div.,
1993) fondest memories of her Seminary years were the days when President Gillespie
preached in chapel.
Going to the Chapel...
Many PTS stduents were married in Miller Chapel. Damon and Mary Hickey
(class of 1968) were married there in May 1967, a year before their graduation. This
picture was taken on the steps of the chapel twenty-six years later when they returned for
their twenty-fifth class reunion in 1993.
His call to worship was always the same, she says. Everyone who
is thirsty, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! With
those words he seemed to lay down his presidential persona and become again the pastor of
a hungry and thirsty flock. He taught us from his favorite Pauline epistles and challenged
us with the words of the prophets, but always he proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are days when I am preparing a Sunday sermon that I wish I had taken notes. But it
wasnt a class we took in Miller Chapel, it was worship the community
gathered, despite all that divided us around the Word.
Worship in Miller Chapel has always been enhanced by the incredible music that has been
an essential component of many chapel memories. It wasnt just the acoustics,
which were fantastic, says John Turpin, but the sound of all the voices
joining together in singing the great hymns. For Turpin, singing hymns such as
Father, We Praise Thee Now the Night Is Over was the perfect way to launch a
Bob Heppenstall chose to be yet another self-proclaimed balcony sitter
because he loved hearing the joyful music of the singing of the hymns waft up to where he
sat. The music lifted my soul, he says, and this statement is echoed almost
unanimously by those who shared their memories of Miller Chapel, no matter where they
chose to sit.
Ray Lindquist joined the Seminary Touring Choir under the tutelage of David Hugh Jones.
Every Sunday, the choir traveled to three different churches and sang: once in the
morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. This gave us a great
experience of worshipping in different churches, Lindquist recalls, and also gave
the students a chance to visit various other countries during the summer months.