A look inside the Mount Holyoke Interfaith Sanctuary

  • Chapel with light coming in on left side and colorful banners hanging from the ceiling
    Interior view from the door of the chapel.

Part of the original Mary Lyon Hall building constructed in 1897, the small chapel that now houses the Interfaith Sanctuary was originally a space used for Christian prayer, with a simple altar and wooden pews that seated about 60 people. Since the construction of Abbey Memorial Chapel, completed in 1938, the space has been known as the “little chapel” by many generations of Mount Holyoke students and alumnae.

Beginning in 1999 a group of students, faculty and staff converted the space into Abbey Interfaith Sanctuary. Available to students and community members of all faith backgrounds (and to those of no faith as well), the sanctuary offers a place for reflection, journal writing, meditation, singing, dancing, walking the sacred labyrinth and even yoga nidra. In addition, the space is used for Unitarian Universalist, Hindu, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Bahá’í and Pagan/Wiccan/Earth-Based Spirituality services. Sacred artwork and texts are found throughout. 

Original stained-glass windows still bring in light from the Mary Deacon Bullard Garden on one side and open directly into the interior of Abbey Memorial Chapel on the other. And the space is easily manipulated to suit the needs of the groups that gather there, with stacking chairs, pillows and tables and even a baby grand piano.

—By Anne Pinkerton

A similar article appeared as “Interfaith Sanctuary” in the summer 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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