Many universities have a purpose-built multi-faith chaplaincy centre that might include, for example, a room and washing facilities for Muslim prayers, a Kosher kitchen for Jewish students etc. Others such as Oxbridge colleges may have a historic link to the Christian faith – often to the Church of England – and a specifically Christian Chapel that is at the heart of university life. Keele falls somewhere in between: the university does not have historic church or Christian roots but many of the people who founded it were inspired by their Christian faith, and very soon after its founding local churches raised the funds to build a Christian Chapel at the heart of campus.
So our Chapel is an overtly Christian place of worship, and it is unusual in being designed for different branches of the Christian faith to worship together (the jargon word for this is “ecumenical”). It is neither designed nor ideal for multi-faith use but we seek to welcome people of all faiths and none, including setting aside a room called The Space which is deliberately kept free of all faith symbols to allow anyone to use it for prayer or reflection. It is also used for events that are not related to faith at all, including graduations and concerts.
Sort of, yes. It is most like a church on a Sunday morning when we have our regular worship. At other times the way the Chapel functions is different from a typical church – for example it’s used for student groups like the Christian Union, and university events such as concerts and graduations. Another difference is that we seek to make students and staff of other faiths welcome too, so for example you might find Muslim students praying here during the week. But if you think of the university as a village and the Chapel as a village church that is open to all, that’s not far off.
The word ecumenical describes what happens when different branches (or “denominations”) of the Christian church work or worship together. In the case of Keele Chapel, we are formally a partnership between five denominations – the Church of England, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Church – although members of even more Christian denominations join us for worship. This is different to being a “multi-faith” space since all of those churches are Christian. However we seek to make the Chapel a welcoming place to people of all faiths and none, including setting aside a room called The Space which is deliberately kept free of all faith symbols to allow anyone to use it for prayer or reflection.
Yes! The Chapel is usually open from early to late. Sometimes access will be limited because of events that are taking place, but almost always you will be able to use the East Chapel (the smaller one nearest the Forest of Light) which we try to keep set aside for quiet prayer and reflection, to light a candle or pin a prayer on the board. There is a room within the East Chapel called The Space which deliberately has no crosses or other faith symbols in it if that feels more appropriate for you. You might come because you are feeling particularly stressed, or sad, or following difficult news; you might also come when you are feeling thankful or glad and want to sit quietly with those good emotions. The Chapel is for everyone.
Yes! Everyone is most welcome to use the building. There is a kitchen where you can help yourself to free tea and coffee at any time, or use the microwave. There are social spaces by each main door where you are welcome to hang out. It is also a very good place to come if you simply want to reflect or find some quiet. You might come because you are feeling particularly stressed, or sad, or following difficult news; you might also come when you are feeling thankful or glad and want to sit quietly with those good emotions. The Chapel is for everyone.
Yes! Everyone is most welcome to use it. The building is overtly Christian (rather than multi-faith) and we appreciate that it’s less than ideal for members of other faiths to use for prayer or reflection – but if you are happy to pray or meditate here we are delighted to make you welcome. The room called The Space within the East Chapel is deliberately kept free of all faith symbols and may be the best place to use, but you can pray anywhere in the building. There are toilets available for washing if needed.
Muslim students are hopefully aware that there is also the Islamic Centre on Barnes Hall Road which is a dedicated Muslim prayer space including wudhu (washing) facilities.
There is a kitchen where you can help yourself to free tea and coffee at any time, and sometimes extra treats during exams! There’s also a microwave you can use. There are social spaces by each main door where you are welcome to hang out, study or eat your lunch. Apart from our Muslim chaplain Rukia, all of the other chaplains have an office in the building and would be very happy to lend you a listening ear if you would like one – you can make an appointment if you like or just knock on a door and see if they’re free. Several of the Student faith groups also have meetings in the Chapel – you can usually find details on the noticeboards.
Sometimes. There are a lot of demands on the space and quite a lot of regular events that keep the diary busy. Occasionally the university is using the building for graduations, Keele Arts concerts or other events. We try to prioritise bookings that reflect the nature of the building, such as gatherings to do with faith or social justice rather than allowing it to become just another meeting room or rehearsal space. We also try to make sure that there are still quiet places for people to pray and reflect even when other events are happening – which can be challenging given the way that noise travels easily throughout the building. So for those reasons we won’t always say yes just because the building seems to be empty at a particular time.
There is an electronic piano on the gallery which you are most welcome to play using the headphones provided.
Unfortunately it's not possible to play the other pianos in the chapel. The same applies to playing your own instrument here. We don’t like saying that and understand that it can be hard for a musician to find space to play, especially if you are not a music student. But given the Chapel’s excellent acoustic, it is impossible to play anywhere without being heard throughout the whole building. Even the most beautiful playing may disturb someone who has come in looking for quiet or the chance to pray, or cause them to not come in because they think they are disturbing a rehearsal.
Of course the pianos are played some of the time, often by people rehearsing for worship or other events in the Chapel. But given the high volume of requests we get, making the pianos generally available would impede the primary use of the Chapel as a place of quiet and reflection.
The chapel does have an organ, and if you are an experienced organist we may be able to offer you some time to play here since we are aware that it can otherwise be difficult to have access to an instrument. However this has to be limited to times when playing does not disrupt other users of the building. Speak to one of the chapel team if you would like to know more.