The history of the Chapel began in the 1700s, long before it found its home at Concord Academy. During the summer of 1956, the Chapel, previously known as First Freewill Baptist Church of Snakerty Brook, NH, was taken apart and moved to CA. Shortly after, it was reassembled by CA students, faculty, and staff.
Since then, the Chapel has become the center of the CA community. The vision of this Chapel began with Elizabeth B. Hall, the fourth headmistress of CA. Mrs. Hall was an independent and forward-thinking woman for her time. She noticed that CA students did not have much time for quiet or self-reflection with all the busyness of classes, arts, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Mrs. Hall decided that finding a place for students to be quiet and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life was essential to a community like CA. This is where the Chapel came into play. Not as a religious space for students, but as a non-denominational space where they could come together as a community. The Chapel was taken down and reassembled by Ms. Hall and a group of students, faculty, and staff. Once the Chapel was up and running, a few changes to its functionality and purpose were made. The most notable being the senior chapels that began in the early 1960s. Senior chapels are one of the most long-standing traditions at CA, and one of the most important.
The Centennial Chapel Challenge celebrates this story of the Chapel, as well as all of the stories that have been told inside of it. “It’s what happens inside [The Chapel], within those walls, and how those walls were literally built by members of our community, hand by hand, nail by nail, beam by beam… it makes it just that much more special,” said Hilary Rouse, Director of Engagement. She led the planning of the Centennial Chapel Challenge.
To celebrate the Chapel and its unique stories, students had the opportunity to participate in a variety of events at CA. Cyclists and runners could form groups and join an 83.5-mile duathlon from the Chapel’s original location in New Hampshire, to the Academy Garden. There was also a 5K and one-mile walk on campus, as well as a community barbeque during the afternoon. CA also reserved rooms at local inns in order to include members of the community that lived further away.
Giving all members of the community a chance to attend the Centennial Chapel Challenge was especially important, as the Chapel is a place for all of the CA community and is an essential part of anyone’s CA experience. “I think it balances one of the most special things about CA, which is the… support of individuals while also being part of a community,” said Rouse. Three or four times a week, the entire student body, along with staff and faculty members, gathers together in the Chapel to listen to and support seniors in sharing some of their most vulnerable stories with us. This trust among members of our community is what makes CA such a unique place, so it is fitting that the Chapel would be celebrated as part of CA’s 100th-year anniversary.