ChattState Chapel Dialogue

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
(The year is 2020. The setting is the James Catanzaro Wildlife Refuge at Chattanooga State. Two students enter the woodsy retreat on the edge of the Tennessee River and take seats on a bench near a stream.)
 Girl: What a wonderful place. No cars. No noise. No unfinished paper on "Seinfeld's" impact on TV comedy staring me in the face. Just bird songs and leaves rustling. It’s almost holy.
Guy: And to think this site came close to going the way of most green spots on campus.
Jim Catanzaro, the school’s former president, wanted to erect a multi-million dollar, 7,000-square-foot chapel with flying buttresses right here.
Girl: Get out!
Guy: Hey, no shoving. Yes, seriously. Catanzaro said students told him they needed a place for spiritual reflection and for meetings.
Girl: They couldn’t find anywhere to meet on a campus with more than 20 buildings? Help me, Rhonda!
Guy: And if it’s a church you want for meditation, well, this is Chattanooga. Pitch a penny and it'll wind up in a collection plate.
Girl: And what about the separation of church and state? UTC has two chapels, yes, but both were erected long before it became part of the UT system.
Guy: Even if you grant that a place of worship is appropriate for a college campus, the preliminary rendering of the chapel looked like a cathedral. I don't recall flying buttresses in mosques or synagogues. So much for multi-faith accommodation.
Girl: And how about the cost of heating and cooling and maintaining the chapel, not to mention the Carbon Bigfootprint created by such a structure. By the bye, how was the chapel to be financed?
Guy: Catanzaro said the private sector would fund construction costs.
Girl. But that would have meant precious private dollars that could have been directed to student scholarships, faculty raises and curriculum expansion would be squandered on … well, a monument to Catanzaro.
Guy: And then there was the major objection to the project. With so many of the earth’s species under siege, the plan would have destroyed yet another wildlife habitat. The space under consideration for development was -- and thankfully -- is a wetlands.
Girl: Moses, smell the roses.
Guy: People smelled the coffee and woke up. Members of the State Board of Regents heard so many complaints from folks fed up with wasted dollars and indifference to our environment they refused to approve the chapel.
Girl: Was Catanzaro angry as an old man trying to send soup back in a deli?
Guy: To his credit, Catanzaro gracefully accepted the rejection of his misguided plan and seemed pleased that the preserve was named in his honor.
Girl: He should have been pleased. This is a local treasure. Hard to think that every day places like this become rarer. Makes me tear up. But please don't tell anyone.

Guy: It's in the vault, my friend. It's in the vault.

Carolyn Mitchell

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