Post Chapel closes doors after more than 100 years of service
June 10, 2011
After more than a century of service, the Fort McPherson Post Chapel (Bldg. 42) closed its doors as a place of worship Sunday.
Though Chap. (Lt. Col.) Bob Phillips, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) chaplain, said the closing would make the day rough, it would not affect the reason so many came to the building in the first place " to worship and exalt the name of Christ.
Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, U.S. Army chief of chaplains, delivered the final sermon at the mass, reminding attendees that more important than the building is the people and work they accomplished. “It’s not about the building. The real testimony is in the changed lives of those who went through these doors,” he said. “God will continue to be faithful even if the doors close.”
While the loss of a “home” is never easy, Carver reminded the congregation they are a community categorized by endurance. Since 1982, he reminded them they had 15 different chaplains leading them. Yet despite the constant change, they continued to gather, strengthen and encourage one another and the surrounding communities. Just as the congregation got through each leadership change, they could get through the closure and continue to do the good work that has characterized the congregation. “God has worked in this place. All you’ve done here doesn’t just count on earth but in eternity,” he said. “Don’t stop doing what you’ve been doing.”
Col. Deborah Grays, USAG commander, detailed some of that good work in her remarks, calling the congregation’s involvement “a sustaining force for the community throughout the years.” “For more than 122 years of our installation’s 126 year history, this chapel has stood on this historic ground, and more importantly, it has been the chapel congregation, each of you, who has played a significant role in this history,” she said. “Not only have you reached out to the Soldiers, Family members and Civilians of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem … but your contributions stretch even further outside the gates into the city, the state and around the world.”
Some contributions included running an annual vacation bible school and chapel fall festival, hosting Barracks and Single Soldier (BASS program) dinners and community prayer breakfasts, and running Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday voucher programs for the needy. “One scripture kept sounding in my ears from Philippians (1:3): ‘Every time I think of you I thank my God,’” Grays said. Like Carver, Grays also encouraged attendees to not let the closure of the chapel close the good in their hearts. “Although this beautiful facility … will no longer serve as a place of worship, it is my hope the faith and prayers provided through this chapel … will shine on as a beacon of hope as we move forward in our new places of worship across this community and the world,” she said.
As a means to help add fuel to the fire to do God’s will, Phillips paralleled the closure to the ancient Israelites entering Israel. Citing Joshua 3:5 " consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you " Phillips told attendees to consecrate themselves, look forward to tomorrow when God will do great things, and to walk with faith, trust and confidence in God Though not biblical, Phillips also used his own life experience to illustrate his point one shouldn’t fear change.
When he first received word he was being transferred to Fort McPherson, he said he did not know what it would be like and wasn’t thrilled to get the news. However, he said his time turned out to exceed anything he expected. “You’ve blessed me professionally, personally and spiritual,” he said, adding the congregation became a Family. Phillips wasn’t the only one who saw the congregation as a Family.
Taylor Allen, 18, an acolyte at the chapel, said she has been a member for 16 years and the closure felt “like being uprooted.” “It’s sad, not being able see these people together again,” she said, adding she got to make many friends through weekly worship and youth conferences. “I’m going to miss the people the most.”
Earl Martin, a chapel member since 1966, said he was just glad he and his wife, Janis, were able to come for the final event and see some of the people one last time. Like the Martins, many others came just to fellowship one last time, with four individuals claiming to have come more than 500 miles just to be a part of the history.
Phillips said that shows just how big of an influence and reach the chapel has had. Such an influence will continue, not only due to the people, but also the objects of worship taken out of the chapel as part of the decommissioning ceremony. All objects, be they large like the piano and sound system or small like the alter clothes, will go to other Army installations to facilitate worship.
“The time has come for us to go from this house of worship, to journey in faith to new and perhaps unfamiliar places. Jesus taught his apostles to go and make disciples,” Phillips said. “The time has come for us to obey these commands and to go and to carry His message to new places. We do this with sadness but also with a sense of hope.”