Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

AFA dedicates outdoor chapel for earth-centered groups

By: TOM ROEDER
May 3, 2011
0
photo - A dedication ceremony for the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle was held at the Air Force Academy on Tuesday. The circle give those who prefer to worship outdoors a place to congregate, and is primarily for earth-centered groups. It is on a hilltop between the academy visitor's center and the Cadet Chapel. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette
A dedication ceremony for the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle was held at the Air Force Academy on Tuesday. The circle give those who prefer to worship outdoors a place to congregate, and is primarily for earth-centered groups. It is on a hilltop between the academy visitor's center and the Cadet Chapel. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette 

Add Wiccans and Druids to the list of faiths that have their own chapel at the Air Force Academy.

A circle of stones around an altar was dedicated on a hilltop above the campus Tuesday with earth-centered prayer and speeches about religious liberty at the academy, a school that has long faced criticism as a bastion for evangelical Christianity.

“This outdoor worship space is something we have created to help people of all religions,” Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the academy’s superintendent, said before a ribbon cutting on the site.

The academy is home to about 10 cadets who regularly attend “earth centered” worship groups. Earth-centered is a catch-all phrase for groups including New Age religion, paganism, Wicca, Druids and ancient Norse beliefs.

“This is very important for us, we didn’t have a place to call our own, to be outside in nature,” said cadet Nicole Johnson, a member of the earth-centered group.

Johnson and others used to meet in an engineering classroom to worship before construction of Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle, on a 7,200-foot hill top that overlooks the main cadet chapel.

Maj. Joshua Narrowe, a rabbi at the academy, said chaplains signed off the earth-centered chapel and pushed for its construction.

“I think its great,” Narrowe said. “It’s not a big group, but is a religious need.”

The site will be open for use by any religious group at the academy, but earth-centered groups will have priority for its use.

Controversy sparked at the academy last year when a cross made from railroad ties was erected at another outdoor site that was used for Wiccan rites on the 18,500-acre base.

It’s clear that the academy is worried about security at the site. The circle of stones is surrounded by metal poles containing video cameras and signs on the trail that leads to the site warn that the area is under electronic surveillance.

The Rev. David Oringdreff, who heads a Wiccan congregation in Texas, offered prayers at Tuesday’s ceremony.

He said cadets will use the circle of stones to “commune with the divine in this beautiful, natural setting.”

He praised the openness of academy leaders for nontraditional faiths.

“Nowhere except for the United States of America would this be possible,” he said.

Academy chaplain Lt. Col. Daniel Brantingham offered a prayer for the site and those who will worship there.

“We stand here in gratitude for a most precious gift from you,” Brantingham prayed. “The gift of choice.”

Air Force Reserve Capt. Kelly Ihme, an adviser to the earth-centered cadet religious group, prayed too.

“Heart and tree, earth and stone, nothing but good this place be known,” she said.


Call the writer: 636-0240

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.