When Somerville opened in 1879, the College was founded to be ‘undenominational’. In other words, while Oxford Colleges generally aligned themselves with Anglicanism or Catholicism, Somerville chose to have no affiliation to a Church or any other faith.
In 1935 the Chapel first opened its doors, following a generous donation from 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 faith. It was her desire that the Chapel 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 foundation, the College does not have a Chaplain, but a ‘Chapel Director’ who coordinates events and services but does not show denominational affiliation. In keeping with the College’s truly-liberal and inclusive tradition, the Chapel hosts speakers with a range of perspectives. Past invited speakers include Hindu priests, Muslim clerics, Rabbis, authors, Christian bishops, Daoist thinkers, atheist philosophers and many others besides.
The Chapel is also the base of operations for the phenomenal Choir of Somerville College, which goes on regular tours and has published several albums with commercial labels.
Details of our current events are displayed on the notice board outside the Chapel and are listed on the Chapel Events page. For more information about the Chapel’s history, please visit the Chapel blog or contact our Chapel Director, Monty Sharma
If you are a member of college, and would like to book the chapel for an approved activity, then please follow the steps in this short guide 24hrs in advance of your proposed booking: Chapel Booking You are not required to make a booking to make use of the Chapel for meditation, prayer, quiet reflection, playing the Piano or the Organ. However, you may be asked to vacate your spot for someone else who has made a reservation
If you are not a member of college, and are interested in using the chapel for your event (such as a rehearsal, concert, or recording), then please contact the Director of Chapel Music or College Bursary, who can discuss your needs.
For enquiries about weddings, christenings and other ceremonies, please contact the Chapel Director.
Due to the extraordinary and ongoing circumstances stemming from a global pandemic, the Chapel has had to take many difficult but necessary decisions. It is our sincere hope and expectation, that these measures will not last long and will promptly update our policies to reflect any change in circumstances. In the interim, please note:
- The Chapel is not accepting requests for external bookings until further notice.
- The Bible, book of hymns, yoga mats and meditation cushions are not available for sharing anymore. The Chapel Director can instead be approached to borrow these items, which will be allocated to you for private use, for the rest of the academic year
- If you are a member of the college and would like to request the use of the space, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are re-booking the space for a previously approved activity with the same attendees, please send a calendar invite to email@example.com. Note,
- The calendar invite must copy in all students who will be attending
- The time slot must include 15 minutes ventilation after the event, so please leave the doors open when you leave.
- Once confirmed, you will be provided with a list of measures