Candler builds new library, teaching chapel

By Jacob D. Myers | Spirited Thinking | July 9, 2013

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Phase 2 of a new building for Emory's Candler School of Theology will include a glass atrium for community functions and several group learning spaces.

Anyone visiting the west side of Emory's campus in the last few weeks will have noticed the towering cranes and construction equipment that occupy the footprint of the recently demolished Bishop's Hall. The project constitutes the second phase of infrastructure enhancements for Candler School of Theology.  

The new building—scheduled to open in July 2014—will provide a new home for the world-renowned collection of Pitts Theology Library. In addition, the new structure will house the Wesley Teaching Chapel, an interactive laboratory where Candler students can develop skills in preaching, worship leadership and music direction.  

"Candler has had a vision for two decades of reuniting our faculty offices, classrooms and library into one building complex," says Jan Love, dean of Candler. The current project carries to fruition the vision realized with Phase 1 construction, the Rita Ann Rollins Building that houses Candler's faculty and classroom spaces.  

The Pitts library's collections were strengthened with the recent acquisition of more than 80,000 from New York's General Theological Seminary. The library's research reputation is anchored by the acquisition of the collections of Connecticut's Hartford Theological Seminary in mid-1970s and Pitts' extensive Kessler Reformation Collection.  

Candler boasts of one the finest theological faculties in the world, says Love. "When we completed Phase I of construction, I asserted that our physical plant was finally approaching the quality of our faculty. My dream about Phase II was that our facility would also begin to match the quality of our library's collection."  

The new building also will feature a gallery outfitted with museum-quality displays so that some of the remarkable artifacts given to Pitts over the years can be exhibited. Staff members at Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum lent their expertise in helping to design the space. Attached to the gallery will be a lecture hall, allowing library staff to host public education events that will serve the Emory community and beyond.  

"Pitts Theology Library staff consistently go beyond the call of duty to serve the needs of faculty and students, and to further the mission of Candler, particularly in service to church and community," declares Love. "The new facility will give them the technological capabilities to do so more efficiently."  

The new library will feature high-density shelving like that at Emory's Woodruff Library and MacMillan Law Library. In addition, the new building will house a glass atrium for community functions and, thanks in part to the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc., several group learning spaces to enhance collaborative learning  

Love says that the new construction also will deepen the ties between Candler and The United Methodist Church. Pitts has long served as the premier repository for archives of the UMC, particularly for annual conferences and leaders in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. The new space will enhance scholarship on the UMC, which will serve both the church and the academy, explains Love.  

Moreover, the hymnody collection—which will be featured in Candler's Centennial Celebration in 2014—fosters study of the lived theology of the church catholic.  

"In the best Wesleyan tradition, we are both profoundly ecumenical and truly Methodist, and I think John Wesley would be proud of that," says Love.