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(The Conversation) — Traveling in the new year? It is very likely there is a chapel or meditation room tucked away somewhere in one of the airports you’ll pass through. Sixteen of the country’s 20 largest airports have chapels, as do many more around the world.
I am a sociologist of contemporary American religion and have written two recent articles about airport chaplains and chapels. My interest in airport chapels started as simple curiosity – why do airports have chapels and who uses them? After visiting a few – including the chapel at Logan, my home airport here in Boston – I have concluded that they reflect broader changing norms around American religion.
Country - Airport - Chapels - Staff - Passengers
The country’s first airport chapels were intended for staff rather than passengers and were established by Catholic leaders in the 1950s and 1960s to make sure their parishioners could attend mass.
“We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us away from all dangers, O glorious and blessed virgin.”
Dedication - Lady - Airways - Chapel - Location
Dedication of Our Lady of the Airways Chapel, in its first location at Logan airport, in Boston.
Our Lady of the Airways inspired the building of the country’s second airport chapel, Our Lady of the Skies at what was then Idlewild – and is today John F. Kennedy airport in New York City.
Blueprints - Lady - Airways - Chapel - Chapel
Blueprints for the original Our Lady of the Airways Chapel. This chapel was moved in 1965 to its current location to allow for airport expansion.
Protestant chapels came later. The first was in New York – again at JFK. It was designed in the shape of a Latin cross and was joined by a Jewish synagogue in the 1960s. These chapels were located at a distance from the terminals: Passengers wishing to visit them had to go outside. They were later...
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