St. Paul's School marks construction of chapel $2.5 million sanctuary to replace one hit by fire


For five years, the Rev. Donald P. Roberts, chaplain at St. Paul's School, has been an itinerant preacher, offering worship services in an arts center, a multipurpose room and a gym on the Brooklandville campus.

"I've been like a chemistry teacher without a lab," said the priest, whose wanderings have preserved the Episcopal-affiliated school's long spiritual history since the campus chapel was destroyed by fire in 1990.

But his travels are about to end.

Yesterday, students, faculty members, alumni and parents gathered in the rain to celebrate a new chapel, which is under construction. Under a sea of umbrellas and slickers, they huddled for the blessing of the cornerstone.

"Good education and sound religion go hand in hand," the Right Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, the new bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, told the crowd.

Soggy participants also prepared a stainless-steel time capsule to place in the cornerstone, with items ranging from a Bible and a computer disk to a pizza shop menu and a POG.

"That is too awesome," said fourth-grader Marcelle Grano, who couldn't resist touching the limestone block.

St. Paul's tradition of worship has been in place since the school was founded in 1849.

For years, the Boys School of St. Paul's was a choir school for Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore. In 1923, the school moved to Mount Washington, where it remained until relocating to Brooklandville in 1952.

The county campus has its own rich historical past. The school's administrative offices are in the Brooklandwood Mansion, which was built in 1798 by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of the Independence.

But when the campus chapel was destroyed by an early morning electrical fire, the school was left without a central place of worship.

"We need a separate place," sixth-grader Anthony Hamod said, waiting for yesterday's festivities to begin at the school, which has 792 students in a lower school for girls and boys and all-boys' middle and upper schools.

The $2.5 million chapel, which will be perched prominently on a hill above Falls Road, was designed to accommodate the largest of the school's divisions -- the lower school with 350 students. It also will house classrooms and a choir room on the lower level.

"The chapel is certainly our most visible witness of our mission as an Episcopal school," said St. Paul's headmaster Robert W. Hallett. "I feel the chapel will help provide more optimism in our lives at a time when there is so much despair of where society is going."

To encourage collegiality, the 12,000-square-foot chapel will feature traditional Anglican seating -- a central aisle between tiered pews facing each other.

"It fosters a greater sense of community with students looking at each other instead of at others' backs of heads," said chapel architect Walter Daniels, who braved yesterday's steady downpour.

And when the white-brick, green-roofed chapel is completed in mid-1996, the school community again will be able to seek solace in a chapel every day.

"It's a place of sanctuary, a place for young people to come and develop and worship with their Creator and fellow men," said Dutch Hall, Class of 1950.

Many other alumni also spoke of the importance of the school chapel in their lives.

"I'm hoping students today develop that linkage," said John Wilson, class of 1964, who was a member of St. Paul's student vestry and was married in the old chapel. "The experience that students have will be lifelong."

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