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Trustees approve plans for new Virginia Seminary chapel

[Episcopal News Service] Plans for the new "Chapel for the Ages" at Virginia Theological Seminary were approved Nov. 9 by the board of trustees of the historic seminary in Alexandria, according to a VTS press release. The new structure will replace Immanuel Chapel, built in 1881, which was destroyed Oct. 22, 2010 in an accidental fire.

Based on recommendations by the Chapel for the Ages committee to the board's building and grounds committee, the trustees unanimously approved concept designs developed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.

According to the release, the new chapel "will complement the red brick of the historic buildings currently on campus and will include a slate roof and a motor court at the ceremonial entrance to the chapel. The blueprint for the chapel acknowledges the need for support rooms such as a sacristy, a vesting room, a choir room, and an infant room.

"The worship space is designed in the shape of a Greek cross with seating such that no one will be situated more than seven rows away from the altar. The design allows for plenty of natural light although no decision has been made about the use of stained glass."

A favorite feature of the original chapel was a large stained-glass window underneath the words "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel."

"Our trustees are completely engaged in the building of our new chapel," the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Seminary, said in the release. "Not only have they given 100% financially to our efforts, they have worked hard to ensure that this new place of worship will serve the community for generations to come."

The design also calls for repositioning of the school's Welcome Center entrance and the relocation of the main drive-in entrance. These changes will create a "welcome and worship quadrangle" representative of VTS' common life, according to the release.

"Naturally these designs will evolve and change," said Markham. "There are important conversations to have with key stakeholders, not least the City of Alexandria. But these concept designs are an important foundation."

Additionally, the board agreed to hire Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd. to design the landscaping of the new chapel and the memorial garden. A timeline for these projects has yet to be set, the release noted.

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