Fifty-Year-Old Dream to Become Reality
Athens, W. Va. - A dream with 50-year-old roots will become a reality as a small but determined group of volunteers are inspired to develop an “Interfaith Chapel” that will serve the Concord community. Over the years, volunteers and supporters of the Interfaith Chapel concept have baked and sold brownies, raffled handmade quilts and held bake sales to raise the funds necessary to develop a chapel that would meet a wide variety of faith-based needs. More than $70,000 has been raised for the project to date, which today, may cost $1.5 million.
On Monday, January 26, Tom Bone III, president of the Concord College Interfaith Chapel Foundation signed a contract with E.T. Boggess Architect, Inc. to design an Interfaith Chapel at Concord, essentially making a down-payment on the dream begun more than 50 years ago. Architect Todd Boggess signed on behalf of the architectural firm.
“It’s going to be a challenge to design a space to fit the student’s multi-faceted needs,” said Boggess during the contract signing.
“These architects have a good reputation. They’ve built a lot of churches and structures that serve religious purposes, as well as well-built structures that serve other needs,” stated Mr. Bone.
“We’ve done a lot of research on Interfaith Chapels and will continue the research through this project on a case basis,” Boggess said.
The chapel will house an auditorium, offices and classrooms. The public spaces will be available for use by faith-based groups represented on campus and will serve as a meeting place for services, personal worship and study.
“It needs to be a flexible space, because we do not want to alienate or turn away any group,” said Bone, a Concord alumnus and former employee of the College.
The project has already been endorsed by the College’s Board of Governors and the Concord College Foundation, Inc., which has made it a key project in their $25 million fundraising campaign, according to Concord President Jerry L. Beasley.
“All kinds of students are looking for the ultimate purpose in their lives,” Beasley said. “Many people here choose professions as a result of spiritual direction—people who are in social work, for example, or people who use their lives to serve others, such as teachers.”
Working with the Concord College Office of Development, the Chapel Foundation is hoping to find private donors to contribute the rest of the money needed to reach the $1.5 million goal.
We have approval for this effort which ultimately could be a public/private collaboration,” noted President Beasley.
“There are those who may not be interested in supporting academic programs or needs but would support a project of this nature,” Bone said.
In addition, the Concord College Alumni Association, Inc., has $30,000 earmarked for the project after construction has begun.
Bone said the group hopes to furnish the main auditorium with padded chairs, rather than pews, to make the space more flexible for different groups.
As an example of the intended flexibility of the space, Mr. Bone said that, “If people want to face east when they worship, they can arrange the space so that everyone will be looking east.”
Additionally, the building may house offices that are in the College Center now, freeing more classroom space for students. The College’s development office, alumni affairs and possibly public relations could be located in the new building.
“We’re trying to find ways to accommodate several needs, but we don’t want anything to take away from the fact that this is a chapel,” Bone said.
Bone said the group also hopes to put some classrooms in the Chapel, both for smaller group worship and for religion classes. “Perhaps even a classroom where seminars or lectures can be held—where students might learn about other religions,” Bone suggested.
In addition to function, the architects are interested in making the building look spiritual without conforming to any specific religion. “The building should bring a sense of reverence, of being sacred ... in addition, there are unique facets of Concord that we want to impact the design,” Boggess said.
Four places have been suggested for the building to be erected, including the front lawn, the curve of road beyond the science building, the field in front of the Bonner House or the Athens Food Co-op area below Twin Towers. Although the architects have walked the campus to examine these areas, they and the Chapel Foundation have not yet decided which place is best. Among considerations are accessibility to students and parking.
“We’re sensitive to parking, we don’t want to build in the middle of a parking lot and deny students dozens of spaces, and if we can help out with the parking facilities, then we’ll do what we can,” Bone said.
While the project is still in the early stages, Bone says the group is trying to get student input. “I’m going to be talking to Matt Jozik, SGA president, and Rick Dillon, interim dean of students, about how we can set up a forum, and when we have established what would be a good time for that, then we’ll let you know,” Bone said.
“I’d like to get student critiques throughout the process,” Boggess said.
Those who are interested in supporting the Interfaith Chapel Foundation may join for $5 a year. Meetings of the Chapel Foundation will be held on campus monthly. Meanwhile, Concord College students can join the Interfaith Chapel Foundation for only $2 a year, and Bone encourages students to voice their concerns and opinions about the Chapel.
“Many religions are represented on campus, and we’re going to be doing our best to solicit input from them, learn what they’d like to see, what they need,” Bone said.
An Interfaith Chapel on Concord’s campus fulfills the role of Americans from the beginning, according to Beasley: “The role of our country’s founding fathers was to become a welcoming beacon for all faiths, and I think we’re doing that at Concord. The Interfaith Chapel will be a place that welcomes everyone. Many people will want to honor a loved one through a facility such as this with a purpose.”
“Today, Monday, January 26, 2004, we are one day closer to opening the Interfaith Chapel,” Bone said.
For more information, contact Interfaith Chapel Foundation President Tom Bone III, 1-304-384-7618.
PHOTO: Architect Todd Boggess, Interfaith Chapel Foundation President Tom Bone III
CONCORD COLLEGE NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Rick Dillon, 1-304-384-5231 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the College on campus.
Mandy Sole, a student in Concord College’s communication arts department wrote this press release. Her hometown is Shepherdstown, W.Va., and her anticipated graduation date is May 2006.