FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opened its new 3,500-seat chapel with a daylong celebration Dec. 1, including a ribbon-cutting, dedication chapel service, baptisms and a free Christmas concert. The J.W. MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center is the largest venue of its kind in Fort Worth.
The 96,000-square-foot complex will serve as the setting for the seminary’s weekly chapel services, as well as graduation ceremonies, musical performances, conferences and other special events. Beginning in July 2012, it will also house the “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible” exhibition.
Preaching from 1 Kings 8:22-30, seminary President Paige Patterson said his prayer for the chapel was similar to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer for the temple — that it would be a place to honor the name of the Lord, a place to seek His face, and a place to experience His presence.
Citing the many uses of the chapel and events that will come, Patterson said, “Never miss the point that all of that is add-on. It comes to nothing if certain things are not true of this place. All we seek of God today is that He will choose this place, that His presence will be known and experienced here.”
Patterson noted that many have asked him recently if he is excited about the new chapel, to which he responded, “Not yet.”
“I can’t be excited about it until I see what you’ve heard from the lips of several today, that it has moved from being a building to a house of transaction — when I see that transactions of eternal consequence begin to take place here and people begin to find Christ as Savior and they’re drawn here to the Lord Jesus — because, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the only thing that matters in time and eternity.”
Patterson presented the Gospel at the end of the service, inviting people to come forward to receive Christ or to pray about their relationship with the Lord. During the invitation, several people came forward to talk and pray with seminary professors.
Several Southern Baptist Convention leaders attended the dedication service, including GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg and Executive Committee President Frank Page. Three special guests brought greetings: Page, Hance Dilbeck, chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees; and Heinrich Derksen, president of Bibleseminar Bonn, a German partnership with the seminary.
Built by Manhattan Construction, the same company that built Cowboys Stadium, MacGorman Chapel is also designed as a venue for top-quality stage productions and musical events.
Alongside its excellent acoustics, the auditorium features state-of-the-art sound, video and lighting systems, as well as a combination pipe-digital organ that can support congregational worship as well as large choral and instrumental ensembles. The main stage is large enough for a 90-piece orchestra and 200-voice choir. Two projection screens are mounted on each side of the stage, each one equivalent to a 330-inch television. Behind the stage, choir and orchestra rehearsal rooms provide space for musicians to prepare, and a hospitality suite offers a reception area for intermissions and private gatherings.
Immediately following the chapel dedication service, guests gathered in the main lobby for the dedication of the Southern Baptists of Texas Baptismal Pool. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) provided funds for the dual-purpose fountain and baptismal pool, which serves as a symbol of the seminary’s commitment to evangelism and missions as well as Baptist views on the meaning and mode of baptism.
Because the seminary is not a church and does not have the authority to baptize, SBTC President Jim Richards said the baptismal pool will provide a place for churches that do not have a baptismal and a place for students to practice the ordinance before entering formal full-time pastoral ministry.
Following the dedication remarks, Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth baptized five new believers in the baptismal pool.
To cap off the daylong celebration, Southwestern’s School of Church Music presented Christmas at Southwestern, an annual concert featuring Christmas carols and pieces from Rutter’s Magnificat and Handel’s Messiah. The free concert was open to the public and had a near-capacity audience.
The MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center is available to groups interested in hosting performances, conferences, graduations or other special events.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).
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