BREAKING NEWS: Historic Virginia Theological Seminary Chapel destroyed by fire

PM Update – From the Washington Post:

Fire caused heavy damage Friday to a historic chapel on the grounds of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.

The blaze, which raged through the 19th-century Immanuel Chapel, was described by the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of the Episcopal seminary, as a catastrophe.

The blaze was reported about 3:55 p.m., and “the moment the fire took hold, it went down rapidly,” Rev. Markham said of large sections of the 129-year-old building.

No injuries or damage to other buildings were reported at the facility, on the western side of the city, at Seminary Road and Quaker Lane. The cause was not yet known.

“I watched it,” Rev. Markham said. “Within 40 minutes, the heart of the chapel was destroyed. It was a trauma that will stay with me.”

Many members of the Episcopal clergy were ordained in the chapel. It had also been the site of marriages and funerals.

According to Rev. Markham, former president Gerald Ford, once a Virginia resident, had attended services at the chapel, including the Sunday after taking the oath of office.

In addition, he said, the worship space was used three times daily, with students required to attend at least one of the services.

Such a space, he said “really forms you.”

Emblazoned above the arched stained-glass window behind the altar were the words: “Go Ye Into All The World And Preach The Gospel.”

The window and the words of exhortation were lost to the fire, the seminary said in a statement.

“There are literally thousands of alumni who are devastated,” Rev. Markham said.

Read it all here.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=5390

From FoxNews:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A historic chapel on the grounds of the Episcopal Church’s Virginia Theological Seminary has suffered extensive damage in a fire.

Alexandria Fire Department spokesman John North said the fire broke out Friday afternoon and the 129-year-old Immanuel Chapel was fully engulfed in flames when the first crews arrived. He said the final damage is likely to be a “terrible loss.”

Seminary officials said the stained glass windows were lost.
No injuries were reported and North said it was too early to determine a cause.

More info here.

UPDATE: From VTS:

[Alexandria, VA] – This afternoon, at 3:55 p.m., the Virginia Theological Seminary community became aware that the historic 129 year old Immanuel Chapel was on fire.

9-1-1 was immediately called, buildings were evacuated and the emergency services responded quickly and efficiently. It is clear that significant damage has occurred, including the loss of the stained glass windows and iconic words “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.”

“At this stage, the cause of the fire is unclear. The VTS Community is saddened and devastated by this catastrophe,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. “The buildings nearby are intact and safe. The ministry and mission of VTS continue, even as the community grieves.”

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 40 different dioceses and nine different countries, for service in the Church.

From the Washington Post:

Alexandria firefighters were battling a blaze Friday at a chapel on the grounds of the historic Virginia Theological Seminary, authorities said.

Seminary officials issued a news release saying they became aware shortly before 4 p.m. of a fire at the 129-year-old Immanuel Chapel. Fire officials were notified immediately and the building was evacuated.

No injuries were reported.

Battalion chief John W. North said when firefighters left their Duke Street station they could see smoke coming from the grounds of the seminary. By the time they arrived, about three minutes later — they saw flames.

“They went on a defensive attack because of the volume of fire,” North said. The building was too unstable to send firefighters inside, he added.

In the statement, seminary spokesman Curtis Prather said significant damage had occurred, including the loss of the stained glass windows and the iconic words above one, “Go ye into all world and preach the gospel.”

“At this stage, the cause of the fire is unclear. The VTS community is saddened and devastated by this catastrophe,” the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of the seminary, said in a statement.

The seminary was founded in 1823 in an Alexandria storefront. One of its founding fathers was Francis Scott Key.

Tony Rogers, a former member of the vestry and an usher at the seminary, said the chapel was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War.

Fire reported at Va. Theological Seminary – 5:21 p.m. 

Alexandria firefighters continue to battle a blaze at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, authorities said.

The seminary was founded in 1823 in an Alexandria storefront. One of its founding fathers was Francis Scott Key.

The fire has shut down Seminary Road between Fort Williams Parkway and North Quaker Lane, and North Quaker Lane is closed at the intersection of Seminary Road and Janneys Lane up to King Street.

Commuters are asked to use alternate routes. 

4:21 p.m.

Alexandria firefighters are responding to a substantial blaze at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, authorities said. The fire at the seminary, at 3737 Seminary Road, broke out not long ago.