Christ Chapel Wedding, Tornado and Cross


Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and, with Rich unemployed, we had time to spend together.  So, we headed south to our Alma mater, to not only the place we went to college, the place we met, but to the place we were married.  As we walked the campus of Gustavus, we marveled at the renovations and waxed nostalgic at the old standbys. Our final stop was the chapel of our wedding.  It is a beautiful chapel, a highly sought spot for weddings:

Gustavus Chapel

Besides a workman hoisted high, we had the place to ourselves.  We walked up the aisle, stood at the altar and reminisced a bit about that blessed day 23 years ago (1986). It was hot and sunny (no air conditioning in Christ Chapel back then), in the 90’s (Fahrenheit).  Although attendees were a wee bit wilty, the ceremony was undeniably beautiful.  Breathtaking music sung by people we loved, flute and organ masterfully played by friends.  Bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, parents, family, friends–all came to witness our beginning and support our union.  (If you were there, THANK YOU for coming!) We kept it simple: Scripture readings, unity candle lit, hymns sung, message given, vows said, first kiss.  I cried, Rich was terrified–just as you might expect. :)

Upon entering the chapel yesterday we witnessed a new addition.  Just inside the sanctuary hangs a bent cross over the baptismal font (see pic below).  In 1998, during spring break, a tornado whipped through the campus.  Containing winds in excess of 200 miles an hour the tornado took out 80% of the campus windows, took down over 2,000 trees and damaged 50 buildings, including the chapel.  The chapel’s windows were blown out and its spire went down:

Chapel spire post tornado

No one on campus died and, even with blown out windows, roof damage and water seepage, the chapel’s eternal flame remained lit.  God was still present, God was still God. 

The cross at the top of the spire was found across campus.  It was bent, beautifully so and now hangs inside the chapel for all to see: 

Gustavus Chapel Cross

Is it a testament to how storms can destroy?  Yes, I can see how some would think that…I think, though, that it better serves as a witness to the fact that even when wrenched by storms we can still be beautiful, that in Christ brokenness can bend us into compassionate beings who, like the posture of the cross above, reach toward others.  That by suffering in Christ we become, like Christ, overcomers, we become wounded healers.  Like the steeple cross and Jesus on the day of His crucifixion, storms can take us down, whip us around and do real damage, yet the story doesn’t end there for, in Christ, we rise again in wholeness and beauty.  Christ brings hope, brings restoration.  He provides the strength, power, wisdom, faith and healing to rise again…to rise again and raise the Cross, raise the Cross of Christ.


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