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Airport's Interfaith Chapel moves to new facility

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

After three months of renovations, the Interfaith Chapel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has moved into a new space in the airport's atrium.

The Interfaith Chapel, at its new location, has space for as many as 30 people, nearly twice as many as its old facility on the atrium's first floor, according to Chester Cook, executive director and senior chaplain for Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy, Inc., which operates the chapel. The new facility is located on the third floor of the airport's atrium, and provides worshipers with a library room, where they can quietly pray, or read religious literature.

"I love it. There's more space," said Mary Bordford, a custodian for ICS Contract Services at Hartsfield-Jackson. "It [the chapel] helps me to talk to God ... I come every day on my lunch break, and I ask God to give me a little peace."

According to officials with Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy, Inc., the chapel's grand opening was June 1, but chapel employees moved to the new location on May 21.

Though the chapel conducts Christian services each Sunday, at 10 and 11 a.m., Cook said he is hopeful it will begin hosting daily services and events for groups of different religious faiths as soon as next month.

"It's our hope to have a daily calendar of some service of some kind," said Cook. "It could be Catholic one day, or it could be Buddhist the other day."

Embedded in the chapel's carpet pattern is a compass rose, which is used as a universal symbol in order to remain neutral among worshipers, because the facility serves a diversity of religions, Cook explained.

"We provide a place for workers, and we provide a huge service to the airport community," he said.

According to Cook, the chapel aids a variety of people at the airport, including passengers, airport personnel, airline personnel, runaway teens, the homeless and members of the military. Based upon the situation, Cook said he can help connect those in need to agencies and organizations that can help them obtain services such as counseling, meal assistance, travel assistance and temporary emergency housing.

"People that get on MARTA, and come to the airport, and don't know what to do, are sometimes directed to us," said Cook.

Before the renovation took place, the chapel's new location was used as a transition space for companies whose business space was under construction at the airport, said Cook.

He said the planning for the transition of the Interfaith Chapel began approximately three years ago.

According to Thomas Danks, aviation engineer and senior architect for the Planning and Development department at Hartsfield-Jackson, when he began planning for the project, he assumed the role of a worshiper at the old location.

"This actually was a result of me sitting in the old chapel, and attempting to understand what it meant to commune with a higher spiritual being," said Danks. "I suppose you could call it divine inspiration, but once I understood the nature of, and the purpose for, the chapel, the design sort of fell into place."

The new location had ample space, said Danks.

Natalie Wheatley, aviation engineer and architect assistant for the Planning and Development department at Hartsfield-Jackson, collaborated with Cook to coordinate color selections for the walls and floors, explained Danks.

"I was up here while the contractor [Biosphere International, Inc.] was working, and people would come in, and say positive comments," said Wheatley.

Other renovations and additions included the stained-glass window in front of the chapel, modification of the ceiling pipe, and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades to name a few, said Danks.

According to Danks, the $200,000 project began construction in March, and ended on May 11.

"Watching the chaplain get excited about his new space really made it all worth while," said Danks. "Most of the time he played it down and was very cool about the whole thing, but every once in a while he would let it out. A happy client is always a good thing."

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On the net:

Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy:

www.airportchapel.com