Since its creation in 1941, the Fort Gillem Chapel, Bldg. 734, has been a survivor.

Built from a World War II design, it has outlasted that war, the assault of time on its paint and features and even a lightning strike.

But despite its fortitude, the one thing it could not stand up to is BRAC. Sunday at 2:30 p.m., the Fort Gillem Chapel will be officially decommissioned as a place of worship after one last ceremony.

The decommissioning, which will be followed by the removal of all sacred items - the alter cross, candles and religious texts - over the following weeks, is the first step in preparing the building for its eventual demolition, said Chap. (Capt.) Brad Godding, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) deputy garrison chaplain.

The building, which has always served as a chapel, is scheduled to be turned over in late January or early February, Godding said.

In the weeks between decommissioning and demolition, the USAG Chaplain Office will be working on the logistics of closing the chapel according to AR 165-1 (Army Chaplain Corps Activities), Godding added. Besides the guidance outlined in AR 165-1, the chaplain office staff also has to work with guidance according to the BRAC timetable, which states the building must be turned over by January, Godding said.

The time is fitting, Godding added, because the congregation - approximately 100 people - traditionally holds a large event around Thanksgiving.

"This will let us give thanks not only for the past year, but also for all the work done throughout the years," Godding said.

Though the building will be closing down, Godding said the work of God started there will not end. The congregation has formed two different churches, Gillem Community Church and Crossroads Christian Church, to allow themselves to continue to worship as a group, Godding said.

As for the holy objects being removed, they will continue to find use at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg, N.C.

"They'll be going to installations on the other end of BRAC," Godding said. "As they (Fort Benning and Fort Bragg) grow, they'll need additional supplies."

Still, the loss will be hard, said Chap. (Lt. Col.) Robert Phillips, USAG garrison chaplain. Unlike many military chapel congregations, which tend to be very transient due to Soldiers and their Families changing duty stations, Phillips said this church was very rooted.

"Many who worship there have been there many years," he said. "It has a long, deep history; people have been married there, baptized (and) had funerals."

The chapel congregation has also had a deep impact on other events within the garrison chapel system, said Phillips.

The loss effects events where all chapels came together, such as the Fall Festival, Barracks and Single Soldier dinners and community get-togethers around holidays. The loss will also be felt by local communities, Godding added.

Throughout its history, the congregation has worked to help local charities by taking designated offerings to be given to Army Community Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and to support homeless shelters, Godding said. Such works should be celebrated, said Phillips, which was one reason he encouraged others to attend the decommissioning ceremony.

"Besides this event being the first major (chapel) milestone in the move to BRAC, it's a chance to recognize the people of the congregation and their value," he said, adding the community is also invited to attend the final worship ceremony at the chapel, which will be held at 11 a.m.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16