Christian Values
Stained glass window in Danforth Chapel, Berea College

Christian Values

Christian Values

Berea College commits itself to stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.

Berea College welcomes people from all religious and non-religious backgrounds, because of our Christian commitment, not in spite of it.

The education we provide is not engineered to indoctrinate students into a particular viewpoint on Christianity. The education we provide is just one of many expressions of impartial love, made available to people of any faith or no faith at all. As we look toward the future, we envision a learning environment that both supports students on their chosen religious and spiritual path and encourages them to build meaningful relationships with people who may believe very differently than they do. As they work and live in the modern world, we hope they will be equipped to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly (Micah 6:8) as peacemakers.

Past and Present

Phelps Stokes Chapel 1906

John G. Fee was an abolitionist preacher who sought not only to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Appalachia, but also to found a school to serve a region without much access to education. Later, as the school became Berea College, Fee insisted it was not to become a “church college,” and in doing so, he designated separate ministry venues with separate purposes. As he founded a college, he also founded a church nearby, Union Church, where all peoples of the earth, and all peoples in Berea, could worship together. Later in his life, he founded the First Christian Church in Berea.

With a college, two churches, and a town growing around them, Fee and his partners founded a community with the shared vision of a world shaped by Christian values like the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. And they put those values to the test in the face of fierce opposition from the religious institutions around them. “The founders were deeply critical of the prevailing Christianity of the United States,” said Dr. Steve Gowler, Chair of Academic Division V and associate professor of general studies. “They were come-outers (people who sought reform), which is why they formed independent union churches. There were few other churches that would break from the sin of slavery.”

In addition to Fee, five of Berea’s nine presidents have been ordained ministers. In earlier decades the president appointed a “College Preacher” to oversee community outreach and the spiritual counseling of the campus.  In 1971, the Willis D. Weatherford, Jr. Campus Christian Center (CCC) was created to serve as the spiritual hub of campus, and was named for the Berea College president who secured a grant from the Lilly Foundation for its endowment. Identifying the CCC as “the heart of the Great Commitments,” Weatherford envisioned the center as an effort “to put several distinguished persons of inspiring and challenging Christian ideals at the heart of the intellectual life of the College.” The center is led by two ministers, and is home to college chaplains and student chaplains who offer pastoral and peer counseling to students, faculty, and staff.

Rev. Dr. LeSette Wright
Berea College Student Chaplains, 2022

Today, a chapel service, led by the College Chaplain or a guest speaker, is held each Tuesday at noon in Danforth Chapel. The chapel is open to the campus community throughout the day and evening to sit, pray, meditate, and reflect. It is used for special services such as prayer groups, sacred musical performances, and days of remembrance. It has also been a popular venue for weddings throughout the decades. Adjoining the chapel is the Fireside Room, which is used for prayer groups, discussions, conferences, and small-group social affairs.

In addition to Danforth Chapel, there is also the All Peoples Prayer Chapel, located in the Alumni building. It is a place set aside for individuals or small groups of any or no faith to pray, meditate, or sit in peace.  It is often used by our Muslim students for their daily prayers. Another way Berea nurtures the spiritual concerns of students is through Spiritual Seekers, a program designed to encourage interfaith education, conversation, and engagement on campus.

Moving Forward

The kinship of all people as expressed in our scriptural motto (God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth. Acts 17:26) remains vital to the mission of Berea College as we move forward. The future is marked by increasing religious and cultural diversity, accelerated change and accelerated lifestyles. As we renew our commitment to impartial love and service to others, we are faced with the challenge of preparing our students to navigate a profoundly different world. Though, as always, the spiritual challenges are many, learning to live and work with diverse philosophies and finding stillness in a fast-moving culture are essential.

To these ends, Berea College is committed to providing our students with the time and space needed to explore and strengthen faith and to discover spiritual connection and common value with each other. There are a number of things we already do well, and will continue to do. These include educating students about the role of Christian faith in an academic context, providing pastoral presence for all members of the academic community, leading the College in worship, developing and nurturing an ecumenical Christian atmosphere, and engendering interfaith education, conversation and engagement.

While we do well in these regards, we can improve and innovate for the coming century to better serve a new generation in a rapidly changing world. Increasingly, students and older adults are identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” indicating a growing distrust of religious institutions. Many as well go through a “crisis of faith journey,” especially during traditional college ages. Our role as a Christian institution in the future will be to provide a safe and supportive atmosphere for students to contemplate the big questions of their lives.

As we move forward, we plan to:

  • Implement “Safe Space Guidelines” to foster an atmosphere of supportive conversations on faith.
  • Establish a protected time for personal spiritual growth and exploration.
  • Create workspaces where students can work on projects, modeled after the Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS).
  • Reconfigure office space in the Campus Christian Center to make staff more accessible.
  • Reimagine worship and community gathering spaces to provide flexibility and creative, relevant worship opportunities.
David Kretzmann
David's Story

“Berea’s motto, ‘God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth’ reflects the teachings that I grew up with. And they make it clear that everyone is welcome.”

Tania Russell
Tania's Story

“I worked for the Campus Christian Center for three years. That helped blossom my spirituality. I felt like I was getting into the Word and sharing that with people. It became a lifestyle for me. Before I came to Berea, it was just a routine.”