Inter-Faith Chapel celebrates 40 years of adventure in faith

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Inter-Faith Chapel located on the grounds of the Warren State Hospital. There will be a celebration to observe the anniversary during the annual Community Thanksgiving Service on Monday evening, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. The Warren community is encouraged to come and share in the celebration!

The Inter-Faith Chapel is a unique place with an extraordinary story of how it went from a vision by a small group of hospital chaplains to the vibrant place it is today. For 40 years the chapel has played a vital role in the life of the Warren community. Regular protestant worship services take place each Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m., led by Pastor Nancy Schwanke, and regular weekly Mass is celebrated on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. with the Rev. Fr. Jim Gutting. All services are open to everyone. Weddings take place in the chapel most weekends and community groups use it regularly for meetings and graduations and musical rehearsals. It is a busy and lively part of the Warren State Hospital as well as the greater Warren community.

In 1964 the idea of a place where Roman Catholic, Jewish and Protestant faiths could all come together to worship – in a building designed to meet spiritual needs of all faiths – began to take form but was a long way from becoming a reality. How it became a reality is an amazing story of hard work and a spirit of cooperation and compromise that is especially difficult to envision in the year 2013, a year where that kind of spirit seems to be all too often noticeably lacking. An “Inter-Faith Committee” was formed in 1964 and these dedicated folks set about finding the money to bring their vision into reality. The hospital superintendent lent enthusiastic support and the state approved a fund raising campaign to build a religious structure on state property that was funded by the public.

The whole concept was unique, to say the least, and was certainly not without problems and hold-ups along the way. The committee envisioned an InterFaith Center with a main Interfaith Chapel in a contemporary design with gathering space and three separate chapels for Jewish, Protestant and Catholic worship. Eventually, an architect came on board and the committee helped design the building and continued to tirelessly raise money. When the amount needed was still not there, the current state senator went to work to get an appropriation from the state with the Commonwealth Governor’s blessing. Nine long years later, on April 12, 1973, the Inter-Faith Center was dedicated and the first services held three days later on Palm Sunday.

One of the most striking features of the main chapel is the five-ton rock altar. The sandstone rocks were actually found on hospital property and left intact as much as possible, fossils and all. Behind the altar is an abstract window made of colored glass. The windows were designed to depict patterns, symbols and feelings rather than depictions of particular figures. Colors and ideas of light, water, sky and growth are all present in the ever-changing windows depending on the changing light behind them. The chapel is rich with the traditions of the past in a contemporary gathering place for the present with a joyful look toward the future.

The InterFaith Center is intended to be a place that nurtures the faith of all who use it. The InterFaith Center invites all of the Warren community to join in its 40th anniversary celebration during this Community Thanksgiving Service on Monday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m.