When walking into the Harmony Gardens community, one can’t help but notice the large chapel near the entrance.
“Right when you walk in, it’s at the forefront,” Harmony Gardens Housing Director Sarah Schwensen says. “When we give tours, people will walk into the chapel, linger and enjoy the space. It’s such a root of our organization and it’s nice to have it at the forefront of the building. It’s a nice shared space for any resident and visitor to go to.”
The chapel at Harmony Gardens’ previous location, New Harmony Care Center in St. Paul, was smaller and used for storage and office space since August 2020.
“The chapel the last couple years was not used as a chapel sadly, but we had no other space,” Harmony Gardens Campus Administrator Becky Holmgren says. “Chapel services were being held in the dining room.”
With the construction of Harmony Gardens came the ability to provide a dedicated worship space for residents, their families and staff.
The Gift of Generosity
Hundreds of donors and a dedicated capital campaign committee made the Rev. William J. Hamel Chapel a reality.
“I became aware that, because the community is financed by public bonding, it’s not possible to include religious components,” capital campaign chair Jon Addington says. “If the chapel were to happen, those funds would need to be raised independently.”
And that’s what happened, to the tune of $400,000.
It began with the creation of the capital campaign committee in September 2021 and ended with the final donation on New Year’s Eve 2022, narrowly meeting the goal of funding the chapel before ringing in the New Year.
Jon says he believes God moved in people’s hearts to give.
“As much as we thank the committee and the donors, we really thank the Lord,” Jon says. “It’s a celebration and we give all the credit to God … I don’t want to minimize that because this is a faith effort and we believe God honored the efforts that humanly we did.”
The Power of Partnership
Beginning in 2007, members of First Evangelical Free Church of Maplewood had conversations with leadership of Cassia’s predecessor Elim about building a senior living community in Maplewood.
“Our church wanted to partner because it was a place we could minister for outreach and care for our own,” Jon says.
The church took ownership of the chapel capital campaign, with members, their families and friends all donating to the cause. A large paper thermometer in the church kept the congregation up to date on the campaign’s progress.
Jon explains why the chapel was so important to members of the church.
“Spiritual care is really a part of our vision,” he says. “We wanted a place where there would be worship services and Bible studies and the center of the spiritual care component. The chapel was that.”
In Memory of Rev. Hamel
“I’m excited to honor the person we named the chapel for and his family,” Jon says. “He was a significant figure in the denomination (Evangelical Free Church of America) and Elim and Cassia.”
Cassia Vice President of Philanthropy Matt Crawford says, as an Elim board member, Hamel helped navigate the creation of Cassia with Augustana Care.
“He really helped create the structure that helped us honor our faith affiliations,” Matt says. “The E Free and Lutheran churches were coming together. Bill was instrumental that we did it in a beautiful way to serve in the spirit of Christ’s love.”
As the capital campaign got underway, individuals asked if they could give in honor of Rev. Hamel, who had passed away in 2018.
“It took on a new meaning when Cassia and the Hamel family came on to honor Bill,” Matt says. “It was beautiful to see other people we didn’t know choose to honor Bill and carry on his legacy.”
A Functional, Beautiful Worship Space
Large groups of up to 100 people can now gather comfortably in the William J. Hamel Chapel.
A sound system, projector and screen aid in the experience for all in attendance.
Best of all, it looks and feels like a chapel. There are high ceilings, many windows that let in natural light and a large cross on the front wall.
Harmony Gardens hosts a Sunday worship service, a midweek chapel service, Bible studies and other gatherings—all-important things for residents to be able to access.
“We believe home for our residents includes access to worship and Christ-centered senior living requires a chapel to facilitate that,” Matt says. “… Church is a critical thing. When you have a chapel, a home church culture is created. They’re now church members at Harmony Gardens. They’re building relationships with each other that will grow in the same way as fellowship at other churches.”
Matt says he is proud to see so many people come together to allow that to happen.
“We’ll forever be grateful to the partners who chose to make this space possible, to the donors who stretched and gave,” Matt says. “It took everyone. It took every gift. We hit the goal on the last day. No gift was too small. It took every single one to get there. And now, people are having fullness of life in the spirit of Christ’s love because of them.”