This article, originally published in Decision Magazine in 1989, describes the origin of The Chatlos Memorial Chapel. With quotes from Ruth Graham and detailed descriptions of the Chapel’s architecture, the article highlights the amount of care that was put into every aspect of the Chapel’s construction.
Shortly after the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association acquired a 1,500-acre mountain property just outside Asheville, North Carolina, Billy and Ruth Graham climbed over the chain that hung across the dirt road and hiked up the mountain to a little stream. The only structure on the land was an old caretaker’s cabin. Mr. and Mrs. Graham prayed that the Lord would bless this spot, that it would be used for the glory of God.
Near that spot today stands a newly completed, four-story chapel, one of the buildings that will constitute the Bible training center known as The Cove.
“I’m overwhelmed. It’s better and bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Mrs. Graham of the chapel. “I had envisioned a small chapel, but I think the size is providential. I’m sure God saw that this was what was needed.”
Each level of the chapel serves a specific function, with the combined purpose of training believers in the Word of God while enriching their personal relationship with the Lord.
Because the chapel is built on the side of the mountain, the bottom floor, a seminar room, follows the contour of the land and naturally results in elevated tiers of desks. The room holds 50 to 60 people and will be used for Bible training.
The second floor is a multipurpose room. Equipped with a small kitchen, the room is designed for fellowship, receptions and informal gatherings. Folding chairs can be brought in to accommodate conferences of up to 180 people. Two sides of the room are lined with glass doors that lead out to a deck running the length of the chapel.
Up a flight of stairs on the third floor is the main sanctuary with a seating capacity of about 220. At the front is a raised platform and at the rear a covered entryway and vestibule. The sanctuary is constructed so that everything–the windows, the dormers, the peak in the ceiling–points upward to create an atmosphere of worship.
The ceiling stretches 40 feet above the heart-of-pine floor. The windows, five on each side and 28 feet tall, are clear glass rather than stained glass to allow worshipers to view the Lord’s artistry in the wooded outdoors.
The pews were located in England in an inoperative school for the blind, established in 1790. The pulpit, made of white oak and estimated to be more than 200 years old, was discovered in a secondhand shop in England. A piano has been donated for use in the sanctuary, and Cove officials are in the process of selecting an organ.
Along with having facilities for learning, fellowship and worship, the chapel caters to a fourth function: prayer. The top floor, directly beneath the steeple, is a prayer room designed for use by individuals and small groups. As yet unfinished, this room is intended to be a quiet, meditative place with pews and a table circled by cushions on the floor for kneeling.
The 87-foot steeple houses a carillon that peals every hour and can be heard off The Cove property.
The exterior of the chapel is in the process of being covered with rock hewn from the mountain. Three rock masons, all Christians, recently fashioned a small wooden cross and fastened it to the side of the chapel.
“When I saw that cross,” said Mrs. Graham, “I asked one of our directors about it, and he said, ‘When they’re doing rock work, it’s an eight-hour devotional.’ ”
From the Grahams’ earliest prayer of dedication, prayer has accompanied each step of the chapel’s construction. It is Mrs. Graham’s hope that this practice will continue as further development takes place at The Cove.
Mrs. Graham said, “We ask people to pray for The Cove so that we’ll go forward with united hearts and so that The Cove will always be used for God’s glory.”
Written by Ann Tatlock
Today, the Chapel serves as both a place of prayer and contemplation, and a Visitor’s Center where Cove guests can learn more about the ministry of The Cove and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Guests begin their tour on the bottom floor where they can watch informational videos. On the second floor, there are pictures and informational displays which detail the history of The Cove property and BGEA ministry.
The main sanctuary on the third floor and the prayer room remain the same as when they were first built. Guests can sit in the sanctuary’s wooden pews, play a song on the grand piano, or kneel around the prayer room table, while feeling the rich history of The Cove all around them.
The Chapel offers free tours to visitors Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00 pm (the last tour of the day begins at 4:00 pm). Click here to view Chapel hours and directions.