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What is a chapel?

what is a chapel
Question: "What is a chapel?"

A chapel is a (usually) small room or building used for religious services. Chapels are often attached to larger church buildings and may be used for small gatherings when the larger facility is not available. Sometimes chapels are free-standing and dedicated for specific purposes, such as weddings or funerals. Most hospitals have a chapel where people can pray and where worship services can be held. Most funeral homes have chapels inside the main building for use by families who may not be affiliated with a local church.

The word chapel originated around the thirteenth century and comes from the Old French word chapele, a derivative of the Medieval Latin cappella, meaning, interestingly enough, “little cape.” In the Middle Ages, French Catholics built a shrine to St. Martin of Tours to house his cloak, which they considered a holy relic. Since the Latin word for “cloak” was cappa, the shrine itself came to be called a “cappella.” A chaplain is literally “one who guards the cloak,” and to sing a cappella is to sing “in the chapel style.”

Chapels can be found in prisons, hospitals, airports, schools, military bases, European hostels, and elsewhere. Churches that describe themselves as chapels are often nondenominational, such as churches within the Calvary Chapel movement; or even interfaith, in which case they would host religious activity without regard to a particular doctrine. The familiar “Las Vegas wedding chapel” is an example of a building designated for religious services without any true foundation in spiritual truth.

Chapels can be meeting places for believers in Christ, places to pray, venues for wedding ceremonies, or general-purpose buildings. When considering a place for worship, the size or name of the building is irrelevant. Whether it’s called a chapel, church, or cathedral, if the name of Jesus is exalted and the Word of God is taught, then the building has His blessing (Colossians 3:16).

Recommended Resource: The Work of the Chaplain by Paget & McCormack

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