The Story of Alban
Alban lived (at some time during the 3rd Century) in the Roman city of Verulamium. Although he was then a worshipper of Roman gods including the emperor, he gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing from persecution. Influenced by the priest's prayer and teaching, he became a Christian. When the authorities discovered the priest's hiding place, Alban exchanged clothes with him. The priest escaped and Alban was bound and taken before the judge. The judge was furious at the deception and ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest, if he had indeed become a Christian.
Alban declared his Christian faith, saying words still used here as a prayer, ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.’ Despite flogging, he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and was sentenced to death.
He was brought out of the town across the river and up to a hill to the site of execution where his head was cut off. Legend tells us that on the hilltop a spring of water miraculously appeared to give the martyr a drink; also that, moved by Alban’s witness, the original executioner refused to carry out the deed, and that after his replacement had killed Alban, the replacement executioner’s eyes dropped out. This account is based on that of the Venerable Bede, who tells us also that:
‘When the peace of Christian times was restored, a beautiful church, worthy of his martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day.’[About 760]
In later years, the church also contained the shrine of Amphibalus, the priest whose life Alban saved.
Ever since those early times, people have journeyed to this place to remember Alban and all that he stands for. They have come to pray for peace and healing and to seek God. They came in such numbers in the middle ages that St. Albans became the premier abbey in all England. They come here still.
The History of St. Alban's Chapel
Welcome to St. Alban's Chapel!
St. Alban's Chapel was the first Episcopal Chapel to be built on a state university campus. In 1928, Huey P. Long signed our ninety-nine year lease ($10.00 per year). Under the terms of that lease, St. Alban's Chapel cannot operate on any basis except that of ministering to the students. For eighty-two years, this congregation has joyfully pursued that mission of hospitality to the students, faculty, and staff of Louisiana State University.
A lot has changed since 1928. In the church documents of that day, the students here were called “boys and girls”. The “student vestry” was made up entirely of young men wearing dark suits and thin ties (see the photo in the Common Hall). In 1931, the Rev. J. S. Ditchburn, our first chaplain, wrote, “To build a building on a campus, no matter how attractive, does not mean that students are thereby going to be won for Christ and His Church. There is no building or any other physical means of winning people. . . . God gives the pastor these young people, and he must get to know them. Get out to some games and some pep meetings.” What would Mr. Ditchburn think to the see the LSU students of 2015 texting while on their way to a football game or “pep meeting”?! A lot has changed.
Still, much remains unchanged. For almost eight decades, Christians have worshipped in our chapel on Sunday mornings and evenings. Season after season, the sanctuary has remained open 24/7 to receive anyone who needs a place to sit and pray. This congregation has provided countless meals and cared for the students of LSU in a wide variety of creative ways. Year after year, the scriptures have been preached, the sacraments administered, and the Christian faith lived in this university setting.
Terry Holmes (chaplain from 1949 – 1956) wrote that the Episcopal Church at LSU is not this building on the corner of Highland and Dalrymple. He said that it is not the chaplains who serve here, nor is it any kind of organization. Holmes wrote, “The Episcopal Church at LSU is the Christian student, staff member or faculty member, committed to an understanding of life as shown by God in Christ. A university is a part of life, and so he sees himself living in the university community in terms of what he believes about life as a member of Christ . . . . It is the person who believes that the university is part of God’s world and lives right in the midst of it, totally committed to it as he is totally committed to Christ . . . . He is a Christian interpreting his life in LSU in terms of the Christian man.”
As the current chaplain here, I cannot imagine a more exciting place to live one’s life in Christ, as Holmes wrote. So I invite you to become a part of the wonderful history of God’s work on this campus!
Again, welcome to LSU and to St. Alban’s Chapel!
The Rev. Andrew S. Rollins