Campus prayer space by September

By Chris Beauchamp

Come September, members of the University of Calgary’s religious community will have a new space for meditation, prayer and quiet reflection.

Plans for the long awaited Multi-Faith Prayer Room and Chapel are finalized and construction should be complete by the start of the fall semester, said Students’ Union President Bryan West.

“We’re ready to break the hammers out, it’s just a matter of the clean up,” said West. “We’re doing an environmental assessment and just waiting for these minor chunks to fall into place.”

The new space, located on the third floor of MacEwan Student Centre, is being renovated in a joint project between the SU and the U of C. Plans include two new rooms and the installation of washing stations to accommodate the Muslim community. The space will be administered by the Multi-Faith Chaplains’ Centre.

“We have a tiny little meditation room here,” said Reverend Kelly Johnson, Director of the Chaplains’ Centre. “[The university] wants to promote spiritual nourishment. Life isn’t all about making money or getting a degree. I think this is a recognition of that.”

Johnson added the space will offer new opportunities for interaction between the different religious communities on campus.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for all of us to learn and grow and understand each other,” he said.

Basic infrastructure concerns such as asbestos removal, heating and air conditioning are still obstacles to construction. Negotiations are currently underway between the SU and Campus Infrastructure over who will pay the estimated $350,000 infrastructure cost to bring the entire MSC third-floor redevelopment up to building codes. The prayer space will be constructed before other MSC redevelopments, including new space for CJSW and NUTV, West said.

“Once you start work in one place, everything has to be brought up to code,” said Ron Taggart, SU Facilities and Operations Director. “We’re going to do it in stages to make sure we hit our target for the Multi-Faith.”

If the SU and Campus Infra-structure are unable to come to an agreement, the infrastructure for the prayer space will be paid for using $250,000 in funding given by the university for the project in 2003, said Taggart.

Dr. Peggy Patterson, Associate Vice-President Student Affairs, does not anticipate difficulty with the allocated funding.

“The actual square footage for the space we budgeted for is larger than the current plans,” she noted. “In terms of timing, we are all working on the assumption that it’s going to be open by 2005.

“We’ve been pleased to be partners in this project with the Students’ Union,” Patterson stressed.

Both West and U of C President Dr. Harvey Weingarten were on-hand for a symbolic demolition ceremony, Mon., Apr. 18.

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