Plans for the Chapel began in the 1950s under President Plyler, but lack of funds kept the project in the planning stages until 1992. That’s when the university received a $24.5 million donation in memory of Charles Ezra Daniel, some of which was set aside for a chapel in his name. A firm believer in the importance of higher education and a giant in the construction industry, Daniel constructed of many colleges and university buildings for free during his lifetime. He took a special interest in Furman and his home, White Oaks, is now the home of Furman’s president.
The university started the building stages of the chapel just as it split with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Although many people thought the split would mean the school would abandon its Christian heritage, we instead grew to become the robust and diverse religious community we know today.
Today the top level of the chapel is the sacred space used for worship services, lectures, weddings, funerals, and sacred concerts. The 27,000-square-foot space can seat up to 350 people.
Recognized as one of the most iconic structures on our campus, the Chapel is more than a place of spiritual refreshment. It also provides a magnificent setting for musical performances by Furman students, faculty, and guest artists.
When you enter the sanctuary, the Hartness Organ is sure to catch your eye. This beautiful instrument, Opus 121 of the renowned American organ builder C.B. Fisk, was custom designed for a room described by legendary conductor Robert Shaw as “one of the most acoustically outstanding performance spaces in America.”
With 42 stops (or “voices”) and more than 2,900 pipes, the Hartness Organ is heard every year in solo recitals by our University Organist, Charles Tompkins; by Furman organ performance majors; and by nationally- and internationally- renowned organ recitalists such as Olivier Latry (The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris) and David Higgs (Eastman School of Music). Also featured are recitals by recent winners of important national and international organ playing competitions including Furman alumnus Adam Pajan (’08), winner of the 2013 Clarence Mader Competition in California, and runner-up in the 2013 Longwood Gardens (PA) International Organ Playing Competition. The Hartness Organ is also heard each year in concerts and services with choral and instrumental groups – including Furman’s annual Service of Lessons and Carols in December – and plays an important part in the university’s weekly worship services.
Our chapel has its own history and story, but look closer and you’ll see some links to the historic First Baptist Church of Charleston, the earliest Baptist church in the South, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Our student body loves getting involved and spiritual life is no exception. If you’re meeting up with a student group, head down to the lower level of the chapel. That’s where you’ll find our offices, meeting rooms, and classrooms on this level. Our students use these spaces for bible study, group meetings, discussions, weekly dinners, and more.