On Friday October 22nd, 2010, in the mid-afternoon, the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary caught fire and was destroyed. The picture to the right is taken from the Aspinwall tower, looking down at the remains of the chapel, and was taken by a current student. The community of VTS and all of the alumni around the world mourn the loss of this space that was an integral part of each member of that community's formation.
I attended chapel services in that space for the three years I attended that institution. Initially it was daily Morning Prayer, and Eucharist once a week on Wednesdays. Durning my tenure, the chapel became an even greater hub of activity with Daily Eucharist being offered at noon, and MP and EP also being offered daily. And although I am saddened at the physical loss of this space, God is present still. That space offered a place of sanctuary for many, a quiet place to pray as well as a community-filled space during services that allowed each member to not only worship together but hold each other up. A place of learning, a place of thoughtful sermons, a place of history, both personal and public.
But all things human-made fade. Sometimes slowly but oft-times with a sharpness that can bring us all up short. God's presence was palpably present in that chapel. God's presence was also clearly present elsewhere on that campus and in the world. God's presence remains. Yes, those Tiffany windows cannot be replaced, but God's touch on each of us who were graced to feel that thin place where the Spirit is so palpable, know that God cannot be limited. Jesus proclaims again today that with his healing, which is from God, then the Kingdom of God has come to you. Bricks and mortar cannot limit this kingdom.
New bricks, mortar, plaster, glass will replace that burned chapel. In the meantime, we all can remember that God's Kingdom has come to us, is near unto us, and there is plenty of work to do.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.