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Thorneloe chapel gets makeover

The new St. Mark’s Chapel will become a functional space for university classes, workshops, worship and prayer, and of course, home base for Thorneloe’s Summer Shakespeare program.

One of the most distinctive buildings on the Laurentian University campus is getting a makeover. Major renovations are being made to St. Mark’s Chapel at Thorneloe University, one of the federated partners of Laurentian University.

Founded in 1961 by the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Algoma, Thorneloe University is one of the founding members of the Laurentian University Federation, along with the University of Sudbury, and Huntington University.

Thorneloe University is an interdisciplinary centre of teaching, learning and research, offering degree programs in Ancient Studies, Classical Studies, Religious Studies, Theatre Arts, and Women’s Studies. Thorneloe also works collaboratively with Laurentian University to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts program, and an M.A. in Humanities. Thorneloe University also offers a Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Theology through the Thorneloe School of Theology.

Currently, Thorneloe University is home to more than 2,700 students, 30 full and part time faculty, and eight support staff. Thorneloe also maintains an on-campus residence of 58 single rooms.

In addition, faculty and students in the Theatre Arts program stage regular community performances as part of the program curriculum. In addition, the Theatre Arts program stages a “Summer Shakespeare” weekend of live theatre for the benefit and enjoyment of the community (“As You Like It” just concluded this past weekend).

In 1965, the Algoma Diocesan Synod (Anglican) identified the need for a proper Chapel on the campus of the newly-established Thorneloe University. It was believed that a Chapel would “provide a tangible and imposing witness to our belief that the life of our University and the life of each Thorneloe student ought to be centred on the worship of God.”

The Chapel was built in 1968 as the result of a generous gift of the Fielding family in memory of George Parker Fielding and Agnes Fielding, and was consecrated that same year by Archbishop William L. Wright, and dedicated in the name of St. Mark. The Chapel comprises a series of progressively larger triangular walls forming a rising spirit that culminates over the altar. The quiet interior is adorned with several unique icons, all created by Canadian iconographer Michael O’Brien of Ottawa. The Chapel’s design won an architectural award for the firm of Townend, Stefura, Baleshta & Pfister (now Yallowega Bélanger). A local firm, Neil Smith Construction, Ltd., was awarded the building contract and Mr. Smith donated an attractive sign on site. The distinctive roof profile posed a challenge to roofers to cover properly until a technologically advanced membrane was installed in 1996.

But at 43 years of age, the existing entrance to the Chapel has posed a significant barrier to people with disabilities. In addition, the Chapel has needed a “makeover”, to make it an inviting space for worship services, university classes and day-long retreats.

Construction has just begun to provide a new barrier-free entrance, and a 400-square foot addition that will include a barrier-free washroom, kitchenette and storage facilities. These renovations, designed by Castellan James + Partners and built by SRS Contracting, will electrical system upgrades, internet access, new flooring and lighting, as well as new windows. In the end, the Chapel will be a much more flexible, functional and accessible space, to be used by church and campus groups alike.

When the renovations are finished, once again, people of all faiths will be welcome to use this quiet holy space. Regular weekly worship services are held during the academic terms. Other services are held occasionally to celebrate special days in the Church year. The Chapel is also used for weddings, baptisms, and memorials for faculty, staff, and students of Laurentian University. And with the growing interest in using the Chapel from outside groups for the purposes of worship, education and retreats, these renovations will make the Chapel more accessible to these groups, as well as for Thorneloe University classes.

The Chaplain of Thorneloe University is the President and Provost, The Rev. Dr Robert Derrenbacker. Thorneloe also employs an Assistant Chaplain who is responsible for organizing the weekly worship schedule, and is available to students, residents and staff during office hours.

The renovation of St. Mark’s Chapel is one of several exciting new developments at Thorneloe University. Others include the refurbishing of the Ernie Checkeris Theatre in the main building, and the development of new courses and programming, including a B.A. in Ancient Studies, a four-year B.A. in Theatre Arts, and a minor in Motion Picture Arts Production within the B.F.A. program.

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