The Center for Faith and Life was dedicated on Oct. 16, 1977 after years of planning and preparation. The idea of a music/chapel area was first proposed after the fiery end of Preus Gymnasium, the former home of daily chapel at Luther College. Situated just north of the Dahl Centennial Union and south of Main, the Center for Faith and Life faces the center of Campus across from Larsen Hall.
In 1962 Luther College engaged George Wickstead to draw up a new campus plan after the burning of Preus Gymnasium. The Wickstead plan suggested building a combination chapel-auditorium-fine arts center on the site of the old gym, where the Center for Faith and Life now stands. By 1963 the religion and philosophy department issued a statement, written by Robert Jenson, regarding the need for a religious facility on campus. After a second statement asserting that the building needed to be big enough for the whole college congregation, a chapel building committee of the faculty was formed. In 1966 a plan was brought up, using ecclesiastical language, listing the needs and use requirements of such a building on the Luther College campus. However, other construction needs took precedence at this point including the building of the Regents Towers, Preus Library, and the completion of the Dahl Centennial Union.
In 1969 the chapel building again came to the fore with the launching of the Vanguard Campaign. The goal of the fund raising campaign was to find $1.5 million for what was now being called the Center for Faith and Life. In 1970 a building committee was formed with musicologist Bartlett Butler as chairman and including President Farwell, Robert Larson, Gordon Smedsrud, and two students. This committee put together a proposal on the philosophy of the Center for the Luther College community which involved a multipurpose facility with a warm feeling of welcome and dignity. In 1972 the Board of Regents approved the firm of Olson, Gray, Thompson, and Lynnes to be the contractors through the preliminary plans. Also in 1972 the committee was changed to reflect a new chairman, Wilfred Bunge, who served to the completion of the project. Black Hawk Construction Company was given the cost-plus contract in 1975 for $3,308,257. Additions made to the plan raised this another $50,000. Including all of the furnishings and final costs, the building came to a total of $3.9 million.
During the planning stage of the Center for Faith and Life many issues were raised by both faculty and students. One issue was found in the ambiguity of the purpose for the building. At the beginning of planning, the idea was for a chapel that could also function as an auditorium but later plans seemed to focus on the opposite. Even after this was somewhat cleared up, many people expressed problems with the cost of such a building project. Faculty salaries, at this time, were not keeping up with those at other college and other buildings, it was felt, were more necessary to the college. Some students and faculty members used these reasons as an opportunity to vocally protest their dissatisfaction with the administration of President Farwell, who was an avid supporter of the building project. During construction signs were seen near, and even on, the construction site which read: "Monument to Farwell" and "Farwell's Folly." College Chips, Luther College's student-led newspaper, became a forum for these discussions. One large protest came when history professor Luis Torres, a native of Puerto Rico, was notified he would not be up for tenure. It was believed that he was sacrificed to help pay for the Center for Faith and Life. In December of 1974, a students for Torres committee was formed but to no avail. The final reason given for the loss of this professor was that the history department was overstaffed in relation to the enrollment.
The ground was broken for the Center for Faith and Life on March 24, 1975 and was opened in 1977, although it was not yet fully completed. The official opening included a colorful procession of students, faculty and guests into the building. President Farwell could not attend due to illness. The building was dedicated by ALC bishop David Preus with a booklet put together by Wilfred Bunge.
The main Auditorium seats almost 1500 people with a versatile staging area. The three canopies with transparent acrylic panels suspended above the stage are a part of the acoustical design of the hall and can be raised or lowered. The Rost Memorial Organ was made possible by a single gift from Jeanne Preus Rost ’41 in honor of her late husband, Lawrence E. Rost. The Center Recital Hall, located on the north side of the main Auditorium, is a smaller room used as a performance space for soloists and small ensembles, lectures, and Wednesday evening Eucharist when school is in session. The O.W. Qually Lounge, named in honor of former dean, vice president, and classics professor O.W. “Pip” Qualley (class of 1918), is used often for receptions. The Prayer Chapel is open to the campus community 24 hours a day via an outside entrance. Ceramic wall tiles and worship pieces in the chapel were made by former faculty member Dean Schwartz. The exterior sculpture is of concrete and cedar wood which visualizes the tree of life (Revelation 22.2) anchored in the rock of faith (Numbers 20:11, Matthew 16:18, and others). A drainage tile above the sculpture bathes it with the living water of the rain which falls on the roof of the building.
Today the Center for Faith and Life is used daily for chapel as well as on Sunday mornings for Campus Worship. During the school year, the building is used for the Center Stage Series which brings in outside performing groups to the Luther College Campus.