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Seminary Undergoing Major Renovation

July 14, 2021

Calvin Theological Seminary is undergoing a major renovation, updating aspects of the building, including the front entrance and chapel, to make it more welcoming and adaptable to the needs of 21st-century theological education.

Approved by the Calvin Seminary Board of Trustees, the renovation/remodeling project will focus on the classrooms, student center, and chapel for the purpose of upgrading technology, providing flexibility in use of space, and developing collaborative learning environments. Work began on June 2 with the aim of being completed by late February 2022.

"This project was being developed before the pandemic, which only confirmed the direction of the need to upgrade technology, provide flexibility, and create more collaborative learning environments so that all students — in residence and online — can benefit,” said Jul Medenblik, president of the seminary.

“We are grateful for the support that has allowed us to move forward with this necessary project,” he added.

In a report to alumni, Margaret Mwenda, the seminary’s chief operating officer, noted that the chapel, classrooms, and some faculty offices were constructed in 1959, over 60 years ago. Other sections of the seminary were added in 1975, 1991, 2002, and 2004. Over the years, the building has been kept in good shape by regular maintenance, repairs, and updates.

But it is time for a substantial revamp, say seminary leaders.

To begin, states the report to alumni, “First impressions are important. When the Welcome Center entrance was constructed, it was created to mark a common and welcoming entry point.”

But as the building has evolved over the years and more entrances have been added, there is a need to provide a clear and welcoming main entrance.

“By elevating the roof and adding more windows, students and guests will know exactly where to enter. Additionally, providing options for collaboration near this entrance will increase connectivity among students, staff, faculty, and visitors,” stated the report.

In the Student Center located just off the front entrance, for example, students meet to study, share meals, or simply find a comfortable space to sit between classes. “The redesign of this area will increase collaboration, maximize flexibility, and facilitate a better connection to the outdoors. By updating the finishes, furnishings, and lighting, large and small groups alike will be able to enjoy this adaptable space,” said the report.

Meanwhile, “classrooms have served the seminary community well for over 60 years, but, over time, the fixed layout and furniture have limited teaching and learning activities,” the report noted.

Current teaching styles emphasize collaboration, encourage more participation, and have increasingly incorporated technology use in the classroom.

According to the report: “Adding furniture and fixtures that are easy to reconfigure and upgrading technology to serve both resident and online students will enhance and facilitate learning.”

The heartbeat of the seminary, the chapel is a space where students, faculty, staff, and guests gather to worship both individually and in community.

“A comfortable, flexible, and welcoming environment will be created by updating the furnishings and upgrading the technology,” said the report.

“Additionally, access to the prayer rooms located beneath the chapel will be improved, providing students space for quiet reflection on campus.”

Medenblik said, “This project will mean we are updating parts of the building that have not been updated since 1959 — and for other areas not since the last major renovation in 2004. We give thanks for the support that has been received above and beyond our annual operating fund.”

While the renovation will be done in phases, most of the building will be inaccessible throughout this process.

As a result, anyone wishing to visit the seminary is asked to follow these guidelines:

  • Parking will be available in the south end and front of the seminary building, adjacent to Burton Street.
  • If you are coming to Calvin Seminary to meet someone in particular, please be sure to make arrangements with that individual.
  • Please phone Jen Settergren at 616-957-6675 or Margaret Mwenda at 616-957-6046 if you have questions.