Landmark campus chapel faces issues

Norwich University’s White Chapel was last renovated almost five years ago, according to the University Chaplain. But the landmark campus building is again being viewed as a potential candidate for renovation and expansion.
In the past few years, other projects have taken priority to the chapel when it comes to updating or renovation. The renovation of the chapel hasn’t been pushed aside completely because “they did the chapel completely over,” said Reverend William S. Wick, University Chaplain and Director of Student Ministers.

As part of that effort, All of the pews were fixed, Wick’s office was moved and replaced by a bathroom, and the floors were redone.
Dave Magida, Norwich’s chief administrative officer, confirm Reverend Wick’s statement by explaining that the chapel is regularly updated, a requirement that is established by the school. Magida acknowledged the fact that, “There are a lot of great ideas for things that should be done to improve campus life, and they get prioritized. We have not ever even discussed the expansion of the chapel.”
Despite the minor improvements that have already been made to White Chapel, academic buildings such as Dewey, Webb, Ainsworth and the dormitories all have assumed a higher place on the list of importance.
However, pressure is building around the pressing question of whether or not it the chapel should be expanded to meet growing student needs. Students use the chapel for a range of purposes from religious services and briefings to use of the piano and a place to catch a few much-needed minutes of sleep.
“The chapel benefits the campus by attributing and applying the religious needs of all those who come here. It is a universal chapel so it is not just a Christian church, it also serves to the Judaic and the Muslim (faiths) as well,” said Daniel Tremblay, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Barre, Mass.
Tremblay added that the chapel is available to be reserved, and can be used by any group that needs it. Since the chapel is not strictly a Christian chapel, it is easily accessible to all.
When the chapel was renovated in 1955 turning it from White Hall to White Chapel, it helped to transition the school to accommodate a larger number of students coming in, according to the a Sept. 23, 1955, issue of The Norwich Guidon. Now, six decades later, classes continue to grow in size, raising the issue whether another expansion is needed.

White chapel stands as one of the landmarks of Norwich's scenic New England campus. But the building no longer can hold all of the Rooks for assembly, as it once used to, and is falling behind in meeting the needs of today's students.

White chapel stands as one of the landmarks of Norwich’s scenic New England campus. But the building no longer can hold all of the Rooks for assembly, as it once used to, and is falling behind in meeting the needs of today’s students.

Rev. Wick remembered his experiences from years past, noting, “I know that the entire rook class used to be briefed in here (and) can’t fit in here anymore.”
Because of these problems, extra mass times may need to be considered. Unfortunately adding extra service times creates some issues.
“The problem with (adding extra service times) is our Monsignors, who serve our campus, come from Burlington, they have their own parishes,” Wick said.
Wick said that Vermont is the least church-orientated state in the nation, so adding more mass times makes it difficult, because there are not very many pastors or priests to choose from.
Wick could schedule multiple uses for the chapel but there is also not sufficient amount of personnel to help, he said.
In addition to struggling to find outside help to lead services, it is also difficult to gauge the attendance on a nightly basis. Through general observation, Fritz Sala, 19, sophomore computer security major from Los Angeles, Cal., says that “at the beginning of the semester usually (there are) a lot of people but then as the semester gets closer to finals week it kind of diminishes and then it starts back up again.” The crowds also differ week by week, with Sunday mass drawing the largest gathering.
Students are making their thoughts known for supporting a chapel expansion.
Sala believes something that could be added is “a multimedia center, so that there could be more projection, people could watch more videos during events.”
With a multimedia center, the chapel could serve even more diverse purposes. Other expansion ideas also come from students.
“I think the storage facilities could be expanded a little bit more. I know from helping out specifically with the Catholic mass, the storage facilities for the equipment (is) a little small,” senior Daniel Tremblay said. He continued to add that the bathroom downstairs in the chapel could use some work, the hallways could be retiled in some parts, and some of the kneelers for the pews are also in rough condition.
Rev. Wick is cautious about anything that would affect the chapel’s distinctive structure, however. “The simplicity of the chapel is what makes it beautiful. If I were to make any suggestion it would be to somehow get curtains or things for the windows that don’t change the beauty of the chapel but it could be darkened in the daytime for presentations or for worship services.”
Wick is not the only one who agrees. Simplicity is alive in the chapel: Its white walls and minimal decoration inside and out prove that simplicity is beautiful, a point that is made by Caruso. “The chapel is pretty nice by itself and it kind of shows what the school’s about in there because you have the flags for the generals and the admirals and then it has all the Norwich alums who have reached those ranks,” Caruso said, noting the history inside.
However, no renovation project occurs without appropriating funds to complete it. As Magida noted, , Norwich has “a limited amount of money. You want to invest that money where it’s going to have the biggest impact. So you don’t want to invest in things that the benefit might be reaped just a few times a year.”
“You build and size your projects to meet the needs the vast majority of the time,” Magida said. “You don’t build them and operate them for the rare time when you have considerably more demand for it.” In addition, Magida explained the possible obstacles the school’s terrain would create for expansion. Expanding the chapel to the east would not work because of the parking lot and road.
Sala agrees change would be difficult to the structure. “I don’t know where they would expand,” he agrees.
However Trembley said during the busiest times of the year, it is clear the chapel’s small size is an issue. But due to the funding constraints, terrain and inability to find the additional staff to meet student needs, expansion of the chapel remains questionable.
True to his character, Rev. Wick remains true to the students of Norwich by saying “Whatever serves the students, I’m for.”

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