By Chris Flood
DOVER — Dover Air Force Base celebrated the opening of its $8.7 million Chapel Center with a ribbon cutting on Monday.
“This is a remarkable occasion,” said Maj. Gen. Howard Stendahl, Air Force chief of chaplains.
Maj. Gen. Stendahl, senior pastor for more than 680,000 active- duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces serving in the U.S. States and overseas, who leads an Air Force Chaplain Corps of approximately 2,000 chaplains and chaplain assistants, said places like the new chapel in Dover lay the spiritual foundation for the country’s warriors.
“It allows them to defend the nation with good conscience,” he said.
The new building, at 19,343 square feet, can accommodate 1,100 people. It contains a sanctuary, an audio/visual control round, a cry room, chapel administration offices, six classrooms and a fellowship hall. The classrooms will serve as a place for groups of different faiths to meet, meaning the chapel will be used every day of the week.
The chapel also contains an “All Faith Room” to provide a space to meet a broad range of religious traditions, including Muslim, Jewesh, Buddhist, and Earth-based religions.
“I’ve been to a lot of ground breakings on the base of the years. This one is very special,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del.
Sen. Carper said a military base is supposed to be a place that can provide anything a person needs, even where one can get sustenance of the soul.
“Here airmen will be able to find help with life’s challenges,” he said.
From the outside the building looks like the rest of the buildings on base — a nondescript tan building with a brown metal roof.
But from the inside, the interior speaks to a place with a mission of a higher calling. Windows line the top of the sanctuary, filling the room with an abundance of natural light without drowning out the enormous stained glass windows full of blues, reds and yellows that face the west.
Col . Richard Moore Jr., commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, spoke to the importance of having a place on base where a person can examine their spirituality.
“Spiritual fitness is a central function to an airmen’s resiliency,” he said.
Rep. John Carney, D-Del., said the chapel was going to serve as “a bridge to the divine” for the men and women on base.
In addition to regular chapel services, one-third of the facility will serve as a reception center for Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations to receive families of the dead in the event of a mass casualty.
Col. John Devillier, AFMAO commander, said their collective mission was to take care of the military men and women returning to Dover through a dignified transfer after having paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“This is for the families. I pray we never have to use the chapel annex,” he said. “If we have something terrible has happened.”
The new facility was built on the site of the base’s original chapel, which had been constructed in 1956 for $300,000. The money for the project came from the Military Construction Program’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget.
Dover Air Force Base officially opened the doors to its new Chapel Center during a ribbon cutting on Monday. The $8.7 million project stands on the ground of the old chapel. Cutting the ribbon, from left, are John Bergersen, project manager from Gardiner & Gardiner; Rep. John Carney, D-Del.; Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del.; 436th Airlift Wing commander Col. Richard Moore Jr.; AFMOA commander Col. John Devillier; and Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia district representative Lt. Col. Chris Becking.