Being outside and in nature is without question my happy place. I like being able to lose myself in the quiet, serene chaos of birds darting, squirrels scurrying, leaves rustling, and the sounds, real or imagined, of other animals in the forest.
This is the setting for the Unity Village Chapel in the Woods—another one of the peacefully unique places I’ve “discovered” on campus in my five years here. It’s located east of the Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center, near the trailhead of the Carl L. Chinnery Nature Trail. The open-air chapel was a gift from the 1988 graduates of the then-Ministerial Education Program. Unity maintenance personnel Harold Figg, Kevin Beougher, Kirk Brown, Bob Branson, and Floyd Pearl built the chapel out of pressure-treated and stained yellow pine, which is inedible to termites.
The 16-by-20-foot structure has no walls or roof, although the pine timbers outline where you’d expect to see those features. It includes a raised wooden floor and a railing all the way around the sides. Inside are nine benches that can accommodate 30 to 40 people, although you rarely see more than one person at a time seated on them.
This is where I found myself during last year’s Unity World Day of Prayer. Normally, Unity employees are more visible during this event as we go from place to place on campus helping the hundreds of guests who make the annual pilgrimage to Unity Village. But I thought I could better serve Unity by sitting in the Silence and listening to the stillness around me. I’d always felt a little out of place during World Day of Prayer because I’m a practicing Catholic. However, last year I felt closer to Unity and the guests who attend World Day of Prayer because I made the time to just sit and think about all of the people we help on a daily basis.
The chapel was dedicated on September 1, 1988. A news clipping I found in the archives about the event tells of the declaration the students made during the dedication ceremony: “… that this place, made holy by the presence of God, the most Holy One, and the structure to be built are set apart to God’s service and will provide a holy place for worship, for prayer, for solitude, for song, and for joy.”
Solitude. Song. Joy. These words stuck with me as I trudged back out to the chapel in the dead of winter early this year. I have no idea why I felt compelled to be in the elements—it was overcast and in the 20s. I guess I just wanted to sit again and think. I wanted to hear nature’s song again. And in that moment, I felt quiet joy.
The Chapel in the Woods is more than a mere “discovery” for me at the place I work. It reminds me that no matter who we are or where we come from, we are all connected. Just listen to the sounds in the quiet of this peaceful place and you, too, will understand.