OSRL History

Oxford Campus Prayer Chapel

Emory University was founded by the Methodist Church, South in 1836, with its original campus in Oxford, Georgia. Initially, the town and college shared a church, built in 1841, and now known as the Old Church. The Oxford campus prayer chapel was constructed in 1875. There is also a separate United Methodist church on the Oxford campus, the Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, built in 1910. Religious and spiritual life on Emory's Oxford campus is overseen by the Oxford College Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. 

Old and new images of Durham Chapel

When Emory's Atlanta campus was established in 1915, the Durham Chapel (now Convocation Hall) was built and served as the official university chapel. A separate United Methodist church was also established on Emory’s Atlanta campus, the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1920.

Cannon Chapel

In 1974, a new theological library collection was given to Emory and became housed in the Durham Chapel, displacing regular university and Candler School of Theology worship services into temporary spaces.

In 1981, Cannon Chapel was constructed to be a multifaith chapel, serving the multifaith religious life needs of the university's many diverse spiritual communities as well as regular worship and community space, classrooms, and faculty offices for the Candler School of Theology.

In subsequent years, and primarily through a building renovation in 2012, various features were added to make Cannon Chapel more usable as a multifaith spiritual space, including the addition of a Hindu puja cabinet, Muslim ablution rooms, and a Buddhist Living Mandala Garden. The need for additional office spaces for the university’s multifath chaplaincy team and increased space for interfaith engagement led to the opening of the Emory Interfaith Center as a complement to the chapel in 2023.

Headshot of Reverend Donald Shockley

The Rev. Donald Shockley served as Emory University Chaplain from 1979-1990. Chaplain Shockley was responsible in part for helping to establish the resources for university spiritual life and for beginning longstanding programs such as the Anatomy Lab Chaplaincy Program and supporting the start of the Voices of Inner Strength Gospel Choir. He authored several books including, Campus Ministry: The Church Beyond Itself, and he edited the volume, We Ask Your Blessing: 100 Prayers for Campus Occasions (iUniverse, 2003). He passed away in 2020.

Headshot of Reverend Susan Henry-Crowe

In 1991, Chaplain Shockley departed Emory and was succeeded by The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe. During her tenure, in 1997, a planned same-gender commitment ceremony in Emory's Oxford campus chapel was canceled citing a Methodist policy. This cancelation led to a debate over the proper administration of the university's chapels and religious life. The resulting decision was to establish, in 1998, the university-wide Office of the Chapel and Religious Life, as a multifaith chaplaincy overseeing all chapels and religious life at the university, with Henry-Crowe serving as Dean. This office reports to the president of the university and operates within the policies of the university rather than those of any one tradition or denomination.

During Dean Henry-Crowe's tenure, the Office of Religious Life's activities developed a more robust interfaith orientation, including the establishment of the Inter-Religious Council (IRC). One of the major programs of the office has been the Journeys of Reconciliation program, in which chaplains, faculty, staff, and students travel together to learn and build relationships in regions while exploring social justice. Destinations have included Bosnia, Cuba, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, and South Africa.

Headshot of Reverend Bridgette Young Ross

In 2013, Dean Henry-Crowe left Emory to become general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society in Washington, D.C., after being named Dean Emerita. In the first search in which the Dean of the Chapel position was open to a non-Methodist, The Rev. Bridgette Young Ross, a United Methodist minister, was selected and appointed as Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Life in 2014. She had previously served as Emory’s associate dean of the chapel and religious life for nine years. She changed the name of University Worship to Beloved Community and created the full-time OSRL Director of Music position. Dean Ross stepped down in 2018.

Headshot of Reverend Gregory McGonigle

In 2019, a national search was conducted and The Rev. Gregory McGonigle was selected and appointed as Dean of Religious Life and University Chaplain. He was charged with increasing support for the university's religious and philosophical diversity and helping to expand Emory's spiritual life team, spaces, and programs for Emory's multifaith community today.

He has built a multifaith team, led the design of the Emory Interfaith Center, conducted an interfaith strategic planning process, implemented important new policies, and addressed financial and advancement needs. He has championed new programming such as the WISE interfaith pre-orientation program, the Faith in the Vaccine project, and a weekly Midweek Musical Meditation. He co-chairs the university MLK Week committee and the President’s Indigenous Language Path efforts and he serves on a number of university advisory boards. He led Emory spiritual life’s pastoral support during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has been selected to represent the United States on the executive board of the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education.

(Drawn from: Emory University Archives, OSRL Records 1960-2016.)