Saturday, January 29, 2022 Jan 29, 2022
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SOCIETY Going to the Chapel

For generations, one SMU building has connected the city to the campus like no other. But major renovations will leave hundreds of brides in the lurch.
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BEFORE THEY BOOK THE COUNTRY club or start looking for a dress, sometimes before they even get engaged. Dallas brides call to reserve Perkins Chapel. With four weddings every Saturday, it is the most popular place in Dallas to get married. One recent bride even scheduled her wedding date at Perkins months before the official proposal. Alicia Wood, who waited until she was engaged, called at 3:30 one afternoon and was told that only four time slots in the next 12 months were still available. By 9 the next morning. Wood was down to three choices.

Perkins Chapel coordinator. Patsy Affleck, receives close to 80 calls per day requesting available wedding dates. The first wedding each Saturday starts at 11 a.m. and the last at 8 p.m. In order to churn out four married couples every Saturday, each bride and groom are allotted three hours for decorations, pictures, the ceremony, and cleanup. But no one seems to mind the rules, the time constraints, or the fact that they have to get married at a different time and on a different date than they had planned.

The love affair between Dallas brides and Perkins Chapel goes back to the early ’60s, when the first SMU couples who had attended church there decided to marry on campus after graduation. “People have attended worship services here, including weddings, and have talked about it and recommended it to others,” says SMU Chaplain Will Finnin. “Maybe it is special because so many people have had special experiences here.”

Janice Virtue, a minister who has married many couples at Perkins, points to a more practical answer lor its popularity, saying that if couples are not members of a church, but wan! to be married in one, then Perkins is an easy answer. Even brides who are members of local churches sometimes prefer Perkins. With its small, traditional chapel and bright, clear windows that look out onto a great piece of real estate in the heart of Dallas, the Georgian church provides an appealing alternative. The white walls, gold chandeliers, and hardwood floors go with any color scheme, and the modest size provides a sense of intimacy.

Symbolically, says Finnin, Perkins Chapel connects Dallas to the SMU campus. “It is a point of entry and introduction to SMU. Many people come to the chapel and experience SMU in no oilier way. It is a space that is sacred for many people and that provides a powerful connection.” Robin Lovin, dean of Perkins School of Theology, thinks thai Perkins Chapel carries with it the same sense of importance that SMU carries in the city of Dallas.

Although Perkins is a United Methodist school of theology, any monotheistic religion is welcome to worship there. In addition 10 the weddings and other special services, some 12 communities of worship hold weekly services at Perkins.

On a recent weekday afternoon, a steady stream of people-young and old-came in to pray, and a bride came in to scout. It’s obvious that the chapel is a well-used and much-loved place of worship, but its 46 years of constant use are beginning to show. The ceiling is discolored around the air-conditioning vents, the paint is chipped and peeling in places, the floor worn down. The good news is that Perkins Chapel is undergoing its first major renovation, at a cost of nearly $2 million, thanks to a gift from Charles and Elizabeth Perkins Prothro. daughter of Joe and Lois Perkins, benefactors of the Perkins School of Theology. The bad news is that some 200 couples will have to find somewhere else to gel married in 1998.

The goal of the renovation is to modernize the chapel’s 1950s amenities white staying true to its original Georgian architecture. The 14-person renovation committee is made up of representatives from each group that worships regularly in the chapel. The appearance will be enhanced with brighter, adjustable lighting, new hardwood floors in the chapel, and tile flooring in the ante areas. The pews also will be replaced. The functionality will improve with the installation of a sound system and an enlarged chancel area. Although the color scheme is not final, there is talk of warmer shades characteristic of Georgian buildings.

While the chapel office is not currently taking any reservations for 1998, they are hoping that a few reservations toward the end of the year will become available on short notice. And those already interested in reserving dales for 1999 will have to wait until Sept. I. 1998.

Brides: On your mark, get set. speed dial.