First Eucharist in 15 years celebrated in Wilmer Hall’s historic chapel
“We need to be using this chapel.”
On July 31, the third annual Wilmer Hall Sunday, students of the diocesan School for Ministry held the first Eucharist in 15 years in Wilmer Hall’s historic chapel.
Back in 1914, when construction began on the current Wilmer Hall campus (then called The Church Home for Orphans. It was renamed Wilmer Hall in the 1940s) a chapel was all part of the plan. Once completed in early 1916, the Bishop Wilmer Chapel was consecrated, and the altar made in memory of Bishop Wilmer in 1907 was moved up the hill from downtown to the current site. In 2002, The Bishop Wilmer Chapel was refurbished and rededicated The Chapel of the Holy Family on February 18, 2003, in memory of Deaconess Nettie Brice Whitford, who was the director of the home 1923-1946.
For 90 years, the chapel was the home for regular services with the Wilmer Hall chaplains and the children in residence. According to the chapel register, the last Holy Eucharist was celebrated in The Chapel of the Holy Family in October of 2007, when the primary focus of Wilmer Hall shifted to caring for late teens and young adults in the transitional phases of their lives, as well as the babies and young children of those residents. The chapel was repurposed, as the transitional programs encouraged residents to worship in the faith tradition they grew up in, respectively.
The dream to bring life once again to the chapel comes from Pratt Paterson, Wilmer Hall Executive Director, and the Rev. Lydia Johnson, diocesan Missioner for Development, who created a plan during September 2019, while working on another project of campus. They got to work clearing the conference room supplies that had accumulated. They brought out the baptismal font. They polished the silver donated by the community of St. Mark’s for the Deaf who once regularly worshipped in the chapel. The historic brass and altar, both specially made for Wilmer Hall, were shined and arranged. Another piece fell in place when pews from The Steeple, a downtown Mobile event venue and former church, were secured. At Christmas 2019 and Easter 2020, the current Wilmer Hall Chaplain, the Rev. Pete Burgess, held inclusive, nondenominational services in the chapel for the residents and staff. Then Wilmer Hall, like the rest of the world, was stunned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the chapel was closed again. With the emergence of effective vaccines and treatments, as well as more knowledge about the virus, restrictions about gatherings on campus have eased. Excitement about ways to use the chapel has reignited.
Last summer, Paterson, who is enrolled in our diocese’s School for Ministry, extended an invitation to host the School’s most recent retreat, held July 29-31, on the campus of Wilmer Hall. With a donation of new altar linens and purificators from Christ Church Cathedral member Robbie Lynn, the chapel was again ready. Dean Joy Blaylock brought the wine, and Paterson baked the bread. On Sunday morning, the students of the School for Ministry, with Johnson as celebrant, celebrated Holy Eucharist. It was a special time for everyone involved and an historic moment in the life of Wilmer Hall.
The chapel at Wilmer Hall is available for use by any of our diocesan organizations. Contact Pratt Paterson at firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries.
Wilmer Hall Children's Home is a non-profit faith-based organization that has been serving young people in need in Mobile, Alabama since 1864. Wilmer Hall serves children and young adults through several programs that provide tutoring, on-campus living, and other tools needed to succeed. Wilmer Hall currently has five programs: The Residential Program, the Transitional Living Program, the Transitional Family Program, the on-campus after-school education program (called Education4Life), and the Community-Based Education Program. The Community-Based Education program consists of the Philipa Stirling Hamilton Education Center and the Max Miller Education Program. Visit www.wilmerhall.org to learn more.