Information Services Office   19.11.2012

407

The new chapel is a tranquil oasis in the middle of the CUHK campus
The Rev. Prof. Lo Lung-kwong
 
Newsletter No. 407 > Feature > An Oasis for the Soul

An Oasis for the Soul

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The bustle of the transport hub next to the University MTR exit has the vibes of an urban area with its endless flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Yet if you follow Pond Crescent to Chung Chi College Chapel, then meander down a path into the thick of the woods, a different scenario awaits. There in the valley, amidst the shadow of trees and the song of birds, a Chinese-style building sits astride a gurgling stream. With its roof of green glazed tiles, the new chapel of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College is at one with its natural surroundings, and offers the same peace of mind to its visitors.

The chapel was completed last year, but plans for the construction of a Theology Building that included a chapel went as far back as 1967. The plans were shelved due to lack of funds, so for decades, theology students at CUHK had had to do without a fixed place of worship.

Floating Years

The Rev. Prof. Lo Lung-kwong, director of the school, said that worship is an important aspect of religious education. Reminiscing the times when there was no fixed venue of worship, he said, ‘In the earliest days, there were 20 to 30 theology students, and they worshipped in the lower-level meditation room of Chung Chi College Chapel. As the number of students grew, they moved to a reading room on the fourth floor of the Theology Building, that had been repurposed into a tiny chapel. Then because we had to accommodate students in wheelchairs, we moved to the main hall of the Theology Building.’

Without a fixed venue, furniture had to be moved around for service. As the number of full-time and part-time students grew, space was tight once again, and the idea of building a chapel resurfaced. In 2003, the council of the school made the decision to build a new chapel.

A Blessing in Disguise

But the path to construction was far from smooth. Deciding on the location and the design alone were huge challenges. Stakeholders held different views over every proposal and plans for change. After rounds of discussion, consensus was reached in 2008. Work began in 2009, and the chapel materialized in November 2011.

A project that was expected to take two years, had taken eight. Moreover, it went through four architects, and the budget shot from HK$25 million to almost HK$70 million. For a time, it seemed like a mission impossible. But thanks to the support of the five denominations, namely, the Anglican Church, the Church of Christ in China (Hong Kong Council), the Tsung Tsin Mission, the Methodist Church, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church, as well as the rigorous fund-raising activities of Chung Chi College, the school now has HK$62 million.

Professor Lo said he saw God’s hand in the birth of the chapel. ‘Many people were not optimistic about this project. They felt it was financially not feasible. Many of our initial ideas never saw the light of day, due to various reasons. But these obstacles were really a blessing. They taught us to stand firm and face problems with confidence. In the end, God gave us more than we had imagined ever having. We can plan all we want, but ultimately, it’s God’s will.’

The Pure Land for All

The Chapel and President Chi-tung Yung Memorial Building is named after the first president of the Divinity School, Professor Yung. It has four storeys with the top storey housing the chapel. The rest consists of offices, a prayer room, a resource room, and a multi-purpose room, etc. For the convenience of the wheelchair bound, the building has two bridges extending all the way to the bell tower of the Divinity School, where there are lifts.

The 1,450 sq.m. chapel can accommodate 350 people. It’s open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm daily, and is available for hire by groups. Professor Lo called it a ‘tranquil oasis’ in the middle of the CUHK campus, and hoped that it will be ‘a place where we stop to ponder life and replenish our souls with God before heading our way again.’

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