Methodism & the Building of a Chapel

Morris Chapel Construction

In 1938, President Tully Knoles proposed the idea for a “medium sized auditorium of churchly design to be used only for religious services…” Stockton-born architect, Howard Bissel created the design for the chapel and Reginald F. Inwood emphasized its Gothic characteristics.

Percy and Lillie Morris generously donated $30,000 of the total of $159,000 to build the chapel that bears their name today. The chapel was dedicated on April 19th, 1942.

Percy and Lillie Morris

On July 10th 1851, a charter was granted to create California Wesleyan College, later the University of the Pacific, as the first of several Methodist affiliated schools in the West.

Church Attendance

Methodism’s influence on the curriculum was clear – initially requiring attendance of church services and taking bible related courses as requirements for graduation.

Frosh Bible and Student Guide for College of the Pacific 1928-1929

The first chaplain, Rev. Robert Stewart, made his controversial stance on the relationship between the Church and the University clear. In his fiery resignation letter in 1964, he criticized the roles of the administration and morality of student life.

Stewart sermonized, “The church must accept whatever hazards are involved to itself; for free inquiry may veer away from Christian ground and may call in question not only the church’s established convictions, but the very ‘faith’ of its members. If the church will not accept this risk fully and completely, it should not pretend to preside over the process of higher education.”

Chapel Open Letter

Dr. Arthur Maynard, professor of Religious Studies, responded to Stewart:

It is my contention that discontinuity between faith and culture must exist in the state and private, non-church related universities, but that the function of the church-related university is to be uniquely that community in which faith and free inquiry can march hand in hand toward an integrated understanding of men and his relationship to God and to God’s world.”

In 1969, all ties between Pacific and the Church were dissolved, effectively eliminating the chaplaincy from the university. In 1983, $500,000 was raised re-establish the chaplaincy.

Inside of Morris Chapel

Sanctuary Window

The Sanctuary window and the Rose window were created for the Temple Methodist Church in San Francisco until they were brought to Pacific shortly after Morris Chapel was dedicated.

Rose Window

The clerestory windows are located high on the walls on the sides of the congregation. The left side represents the Epistles and the right represents the Gospels exclusively from the Old Testament. Very few women have “speaking parts” in the Bible, but Morris Chapel proudly displays eight women in its stained glass.



Hidden in choir loft, St. Cecilia, the patroness of music, plays the organ. She “[sang] her heart to the Lord” during her forced marriage to a pagan nobleman. Although never canonized, many regarded her as a saint.

Miriam was the sister of Moses in the Old Testament. “Then the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel (tambourine) in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20)


The first organ in the chapel was built in 1927 for Samuel H. Kress’ department store in San Francisco.


Organ Replacement

The current organ, which replaced the Kress organ in 1992, boasts keys crafted from bone instead of the traditional ivory. It has 30 foot pedals and over 1000 tin alloy pipes that range from pencil-sized to 16 feet in length and 8 inches in diameter.

Prof. Schilling

Dr. Charles Schilling was an internationally acclaimed organist and professor of organ at the Conservatory from 1956 to 1985. He also manually played the University carillon underneath Burns Tower. Dr. Schilling kept a schedule of songs he played on the carillon before the instrument was automated in 1992.

Events at the Chapel

The elegant beauty of the church has attracted members of the Stockton community for decades. The chapel has served as a backdrop for movies, speakers, concerts, presentations, and hundreds of weddings.



R.P.M. (1970), directed by Stanley Kramer, is a non-fiction account of political revolutions on college campuses. It starred Academy Award winning actor Anthony Quinn as Professor F.W.J. ‘Paco’ Perez, who fills the position of university President during a tumultuous fight for student rights. The majority of the film was filmed on campus, including scenes inside Morris Chapel.

News Release 1969

Stockton Record 1968

In 1968, the Reverend Cecil Williams gave a controversial sermon which both delighted and shocked students by associating worship and the act of touching each other.


T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral was performed in Morris Chapel in September of 1952.



The Conservatory choirs performed in the loft until it was deemed unstable for accommodating large groups.