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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 22, 2002

Worship to take larger place on base

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

Chaplain Joseph Estabrook remembers the day a congressional delegation came to Marine Corps Base Hawai'i and asked a passing Marine, "Hey, do you know where the chapel is?"

Base Chaplain Navy Capt. Joseph Estabrook says most people don't even know how to find the chapel, a former mess hall, at the Kane'ohe Marine Base. A much larger chapel is scheduled to be built by July 2004.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Gee, I dunno," the Marine responded with a blank stare. "I think it's around here somewhere."

They were standing right in front of the makeshift chapel, a former mess hall that takes up less than 10,000 square feet, proving Estabrook's point: "Nobody ever knows where the chapel is.

"We have to say, 'It's behind Dunkin' Donuts,' " said the command chaplain, a Roman Catholic monsignor.

By July 2004, no Marine or sailor on base should be able to miss the $9.5 million interfaith complex, scheduled for completion by then. The complex will be triple the size of the current chapel and part of what Estabrook hopes will be a move to bring the 12,000 Kane'ohe troops and their families to a religious community of their choosing.

Besides offering a place to hold religious services and education, the first dedicated chapel to be built on the sprawling Kane'ohe Bay base will include offices for the 14 chaplains on staff. They represent the spectrum of island Christians: Catholic, Assembly of God, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ and evangelical Christian ministers.

Marines chapel

Plans for a $9.5 million,30,514-square-foot inter-faith chapel for the Marine Corps base include:

• A large sanctuary seating about 800 people.

• A smaller chapel providing more intimate space for small groups.

• Classrooms for religious education.

• Offices for chaplains.

• Multipurpose rooms for meetings and seminars, with kitchen facilities.

• Crying room and sacristy.

• Lana'i, with space for barbecues, picnics and other celebrations.

That reflects the makeup of troops stationed at the base, Estabrook said, which he estimated to be about a third Catholic; 10 percent liturgical Protestant (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and other denominations that celebrate communion and baptism); and a third nonliturgical Protestant. A small percentage of the population is Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and other faiths that make up less than 1 percent.

About a fifth of the troops specify no religious preference — and that number is growing, Estabrook said.

He sees the complex serving all those groups. "We're in the job of trying to connect people to God, and whatever ways we can do that, we use.

"... Religion is something that can give you moral fiber," he said. "... There's a physical aspect to the Marines and there's a spiritual aspect to it."

The 14 chaplains brainstormed another way to meet those spiritual needs: an outreach program called Cooperative Ministry. They're planning a retreat on the Big Island early next year and family picnics on the beach — "creative ways to get people involved with a religious dimension."

Kent Murata, assistant chief of staff, said credit goes to Hawai'i's congressional delegation and his boss, Gen. Jerry C. McAbee, for marshalling the forces to get the chapel built.

The often-overlooked, 10,000-square-foot chapel at the Kane'ohe Marine Base will be replaced by an interfaith center that the 14 base chaplains hope will bring more troops to worship.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"(McAbee) is very much a proponent of ensuring Marines and sailors have the best possible place to work and live," Murata said. "In today's environment, especially with the war on terrorism, if we're going to send troops into harm's way, then they must be spiritually strong."

The chapel's place in the big picture of base appropriations elicits a chuckle: The community center plan, 15 years in the making, called for a series of community facilities. A liquor store was built first. Then came a commissary, childcare center, exchange and post office (still under construction). The chapel is one of the last.

Murata, who oversees base facilities, said the chapel project drew from public money included in this year's military construction portion of the $393 billion defense bill signed into law this month by President Bush.

The design particulars are still being planned, he said, as architects and the community also must weigh in. July is the target date to start construction, Murata said.

"In the end, we may not be able to get all the space, but we'll do the best we can to get the most we can for the taxpayer dollars."

The chapel will be in the mall area between bachelor and family housing.