Cone Chapel being renovated this summer

Contact: Karen Wood

The chapel will be modified to fit the needs of a more religiously diverse campus and allow for safe gatherings during the pandemic.

The beautiful, traditional space of Cone Chapel has been the site of deeply meaningful experiences for members of the Willamette community for decades. It’s been the place of weddings, memorial services, concerts and lectures. It has served, over the years, as a place of challenge and comfort, hosting town halls and community meetings; it has been the gathering space in moments of crisis. Cone Chapel is a place where together we have known tears, laughter, joy, sorrow, anger and hope.

Over the years we’ve had many discussions about how the chapel might be modified to meet the needs of a university that has grown more religiously diverse. A challenge and an opportunity have brought those discussions to a new point: the challenge, in the midst of this pandemic, is the need for more space in which we can safely gather for classes and other meetings. The chapel has been mostly unscheduled during class hours, and mostly empty. It is essential that we utilize every available space for classes so that we can bring everyone back to campus and continue classes as safely as possible. The opportunity is the arrival in Salem this summer of Claremont School of Theology, which is ecumenical and multi-faith in structure and character. Having a flexible space in which to teach and practice will greatly enhance the educational experience for Claremont students and faculty.

With this in mind, a renovation of the chapel will take place this summer and will include removing the pews, installing carpeting, and replacing the pews with flexible seating. Portable tables will be available for gatherings and classes. The aesthetic of the space will be kept as close to the current look as possible.

Cone Chapel has provided the Willamette community with a gracious gathering space for decades, and this will continue to be the case; it will now provide more opportunities for religious and secular gatherings, and it will be a more integral part of the learning experience at Willamette. I’m excited about these changes, and the possibilities they present, and I hope you are, as well.

Some members of our faculty and staff have expressed interest in obtaining a pew. The Office of Donor Relations is in the process of communicating with the donors that dedicated pews through their generous support of the 1989 chapel renovation. If there are any pews remaining, they will be available to our faculty and staff. If you are interested in a pew, please contact Brandy Polo at The pews will need to be removed from Cone Chapel by July 24.

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