Following the closure of Manning Hall over spring break due to unstable supports, several student groups have been forced to relocate their activities from the non-denominational chapel on the second floor. Engineers with the Department of Facilities Management found the unstable secondary supports during a structural inspection of Manning Chapel, wrote Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for Facilities Management, in an email to The Herald.
The inspection was performed in preparation for a roof replacement project scheduled to take place this summer. During the inspection, engineers discovered that “some of the secondary supports that are attached to the roof trusses to support the ceiling have failed,” Maiorisi wrote, adding that he believes the damage was “in part due to snow loading on the roof.”
Manning Chapel will be closed for the next few weeks as the ceiling is repaired, Maiorisi wrote. The short-term fixes made to the 181-year-old building involve “using modern techniques and materials (screws and metal strapping) to reconnect the ceiling framing to the roof framing,” he wrote. The renovations planned for this summer will still occur, beginning in early June and ending by the beginning of the fall semester.
Manning Chapel is a popular meeting location for some student groups. Informed the Friday before classes resumed that it was closed, group leaders said they had trouble finding other spaces on campus to hold events.
“It’s been a little tough,” said Angela McParland, interim director of the Brown-RISD Catholic Community and associate University chaplain. “We have had to move (the masses), in addition to choir rehearsals, Holy Hour, and that’s just the Catholics. There are lots of other groups that use that space,” she said. The BRCC holds two masses every Sunday, each of which is attended by 200 to 400 people, she added.
The damage to Manning Chapel came at a particularly inconvenient time for Christian members of the Brown community as they prepared for Holy Week. “Last week was Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year for the Christian community, so finding spots for a multitude of services that would not have happened any other week made it a little more complicated than it would have been otherwise,” McParland said.
Due to the need for a piano and a guitar, the available spaces for masses are limited to Sayles Hall and Alumnae Hall, McParland said. But the primary concern is whether the space can hold enough people, and the BRCC has been making do without a piano, she said.
Students have been flexible with time changes and willing to “jump in at the last second” to facilitate relocation to other spaces, McParland said. There have also been “unexpected blessings” amidst all of the chaos, she said. In the process of adapting to new locations, BRCC members have experimented with ways of carrying out their activities that they would never have considered in Manning Chapel — ways that have turned out to be “beautiful and wonderful,” she said.
While the Brown Meditation Community has faced similar issues, new locations have also been a blessing in disguise, said Robert Weiner ’16, head of BMC. “There’s always someone playing dramatic piano music or some hip-hop dance group rehearsing” in the new spaces, Weiner said. But these spaces have inspired group members to “do more meditations on just being open and learning to rest with equanimity despite whatever sounds and chaos might be going on outside,” he added.