ATHENS, GA – (September 14, 2022) A to-do list item that had eluded three successive Diocese of Atlanta bishops got checked off Wednesday as the new Episcopal chapel at the University of Georgia was consecrated.
Diocesan Bishop Rob Wright said his and his two predecessors’ dream of constructing a new Episcopal ministry facility at the state’s flagship university is now a “living, breathing, life-giving reality.”
“On the drive here today, I was talking with my (immediate) predecessor (retired Bishop Neil Alexander), and he said ‘Rob, Thank you for finally getting this off my to-do list’,” Wright said to laughter and applause from students and supporters in the chapel of the new ministry facility on the UGA campus.
The chapel is part of a five-story Episcopal facility with 123 bedrooms, onsite parking, bike storage, a fitness center, study spaces, an indoor common kitchen, and even a coffee bar. Named The Wright House in honor of Wright’s support for children, youth, and college ministries; the five-story complex also has extensive outdoor common areas adjacent to the building and on the green roof deck.
Wright gave special recognition of the service of two people who were not able to attend the celebration: The Rev. Canon Lang Lowery, who managed the seven-year project.
“It is because of his hard labor, steadfast perseverance, and generosity of spirit we have this roof over our heads.” And retired Canon for Finance and Administration Bonnie Burgess. “Bonnie, we know that it is because of your hard work and sharp pencil over the spreadsheet that we stand here.”
In addition to consecrating the chapel as a space for worship, Wednesday’s service also included blessing the chapel baptismal font, reception of a UGA pharmacy student into the Episcopal Church, and communion.
Wright said that he hopes and expects the facility, and its ministry will be a place of finding.
“That the people who walk through these doors are found. That they find themselves, they find friends, and they find the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a good and generous God with open arms to all of us.
“That they find God in the ways we Episcopalians hold Scripture, which is a God that loves us deeply, that we are beloved and so is everybody else and that calls us to be the bearers and heralds of good news. That’s what I hope happens in this place. That’s my expectation. That this is a commercial for a loving God,” Wright said.
“I want people to meet that God here and to be found and to know better and have a space to heal and to find their intellect and to find their purpose in life and to find direction, find colleagues and wise guys and people who care for their souls.
“As you know, some years ago the University of Georgia needed to be integrated. And you know that the two apostles of that good work were Charlene Hunter, now Charlene Hunter Gault, and Hamilton Holmes, now deceased. “Guess who I was talking to as I was driving out today – Hamilton Holmes, Jr. And I told him how proud I continue to be of his family and the sacrifices that they made – out of their deep Episcopalian faith.
“They thought this was the right place for him, and that the cost of him being here was worth the pain for the people downstream of him. I said, ‘You don’t think I’m going to say a word or two about you today?’ He said, ‘I don’t mind.’
“On this street (South Lumpkin) Hamilton Holmes was chased one night by some brothers and sisters clad in some sheets around human dignity and now this house gets to be on that street. A house that says to that street and any other street all God’s children have equal dignity, worth and value. Now, that friends, is a good tradition. So let us be known for that here. Let people feel that here by your words and by your example. All of us. Let’s radiate that here because that pleases God.
“[Jesus] said build things on a rock – that’s the rock. That’s the only thing that’s going to endure. When all the xenophobia and homophobia and all the other isms crash and crack at the end of everything the only thing that will be left standing is love. The most durable chemical element in the universe. So, let’s participate in it now. Just say ‘Why don’t you come to the party now? We’ve already won. Come to the party now!’”
The Wright House, which opened to students in August, is an innovative live, study, pray environment for students and a space to foster intentional living. Its on-site chaplain, chapel, and programs are for all UGA students as well as those living there. Learn More about the programs of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at UGA.
Financial rent assistance to underserved and marginalized students is available through The Wright House Foundation. Learn how you can contribute here.
The Wright House occupies the site of the former Episcopal Center and chapel in the heart of The University of Georgia campus at the corner of University Court and South Lumpkin Street. The street address is 980 S Lumpkin St Athens, GA 30605.
The Episcopal Campus Ministry at UGA is one of 11 campus ministries operated by The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. The diocese comprises 117 welcoming worshiping communities throughout middle and north Georgia. For more information about the Diocese and to find a church, school, or ministry near you, click here.