When Somerville opened in 1879, it was founded as ‘undenominational.' There were no religious tests for admission and undenominational Christian prayers were said in College, attended by students and organised by the tutors.
In 1935 the Chapel was opened, following a generous donation from a former student, Emily Georgiana Kemp. Kemp was an adventurer, writer and artist, and came from a wealthy Baptist family. Through her extensive travels she had developed an interest in the world's religions and a wide, inclusive vision of Christianity. It was her desire that the Chapel, although dedicated to Christ, would be a place where members of all nationalities and religions could pray. The inscription on the outside of the Chapel in Greek translates as ‘A House of Prayer for all People.' This is a verse from the Book of Isaiah, which is referred to by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
True to its undenominational foundation and tradition, the College does not have a Chaplain, but a ‘Chapel Director' who coordinates events and services, and whose role is religiously unaffiliated. In addition to providing opportunities for traditional Christian worship and in keeping with the College's liberal and inclusive tradition, the Chapel hosts speakers with a range of religious perspectives. Past invited speakers include: Rabbi Sybil Sheridan (Wimbledon Reform Synagogue); Basil Mustafa (Nelson Mandela Fellow, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies); Andrew Copson (Chief Executive, British Humanist Association); Rosamund Bartlett (author of ‘Tolstoy: A Russian Life'); Shirley Williams (Baroness Williams of Crosby PC); Alister McGrath (Theologian and Christian apologist); Bishop Kallistos Ware (Metropolitan of Diokleia); and, The Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe (moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church).
Details of current services and events are displayed on the notice board outside the Chapel or can be obtained by emailing the Chapel Director.For more information about the Chapel's history, please visit the Chapel blog
Chapel Director: Mr Daniel Moulin
Director of Music: Mr David Crown