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VIRGINIA: Fire destroys VTS chapel

[Episcopal News Service] A fire that broke out at 3:55 p.m. Oct. 22 destroyed the 129-year old Immanuel Chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, according to news reports and a statement from VTS.

"At this stage, the cause of the fire is unclear. The VTS Community is saddened and devastated by this catastrophe," said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, the seminary's dean, in a statement posted on its website. "The buildings nearby are intact and safe. The ministry and mission of VTS continue, even as the community grieves."

Alexandria Fire Department spokesman John North said no one was injured in the fire, according to the Alexandria Times. He also said the chapel was fully engulfed in flames when the first fire crews arrived. He said the final damage is likely to be a "terrible loss," according to an Associated Press report.

North was unsure whether the chapel was occupied when the fire first started, the Times reported. 

VTS confirmed that stained glass windows, including a large iconic window underneath the words "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," were destroyed.

The chapel is also one of the worshipping sites for Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill, an Episcopal church in Alexandria.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas.

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