Sunday, February 10, 2013

Main Terminal, Mezzanine
Meditation Room
Meditation Room
Sea-Tac Airport
Tacoma, Washington

Sea-Tac International Airport "...was constructed by the Port of Seattle in 1944 to serve civilians of the region, after the U.S. military took control of Boeing Field for use in World War II. The Port received $1 million from the Civil Aeronautics Administration to build the airport, and $100,000 from the City of Tacoma." (Link 3.)  This airport included a chapel.

1944 Sea-Tac Airport 
(Google Images)

Over the years the original 1944 building has deteriorated.  Much of it is condemned and not available to the public.  This is true of the chapel.  There have been numerous additions to the airport so that now the original building is mainly engulfed in new airport facilities and snail shell like parking pavilions. Since the chapel is no longer available for use a new meditation room has been built on the Mezzanine Floor in the new Main Terminal. (See top photo.)  
Sign on Mezzanine Floor of Main Terminal

A single Meditation Room sign hangs in front of it.  On the wall to the left of the sign is a plain door that leads to the old 1944 airport chapel that is no longer in use.  The Meditation Room itself sits like an island in a widening of the hall between this door and the Lost and Found.  Its floor to ceiling glass front reveals a panel of hues of red, yellow, pink, purple, and white decorative circles, "Rondo Capriccioso" by Jennifer Lew and Richard Proctor, dedicated August 1, 1973.  

Front Wall Mural of Meditation Room

Past this paneled wall is a room fronted by a lighted photo of mountains, sky, and water, "Lake Wenatchee" by Johsel Namkung, January 1986. (Link 4.)

Interior of Meditation Room

Narrow floor to ceiling windows frame the front and sides of the room.  These six windows are covered with screens: "Weaving" by Gloria E. Crouse, dedicated August 1, 1973.  Chairs are provided for those who come to worship or meditate. 

Donated Macrame Window Screen

On the left front wall is a door to the chaplain's office.  Numerous volunteer chaplains under the leadership of Executive chaplain, John K. Oas are available for worship services, support, and prayer as well as offering a speakers bureau.  They assist not only travelers, but also the staff of the airport.

From the Seattle Times Archives, 1992.

"At Sea-Tac, A Journey Of The Spirit, Too -- Chaplain Tends To Vast Airport's Travelers, Workers

John Oas is no fly-by-night chaplain.
"For 18 years, Chaplain John, as he calls himself, has been a mainstay at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He's the director of Sea-Tac Ministries, a nonprofit corporation that assists airport workers and travelers.
"He was 26 when he arrived in 1974 from Westwood Christian Assembly Church in White Center, the youngest airport chaplain in the world, according to an international chaplain's association to which he belongs.
"In an age of airport expansion and record-setting passenger levels, Oas refers to himself and his associate chaplains as "industrial chaplains," and with good reason. Almost 20,000 people work in Sea-Tac airport businesses - an average of 6,000 employees at any one time in 24 hours. There will be about 18 million airport passengers this year.
"Airline workers may be upset because their jobs are in jeopardy; travelers may be seething because departure times were changed at the last minute or because of complications with a bargain flight to a tropical paradise. On top of that, perhaps no other public facility in the greater Seattle area is as busy this time of the year.
""Suddenly the airport's not friendly," Oas says.
"Each Sunday morning, Oas, an ordained minister, leads a Protestant service in the Meditation Room on the second floor of the terminal. It's a sparsely furnished space with 36 padded chairs facing a podium. Covering the wall behind the podium is a black-and-white photo of waves pounding a deserted beach. Off to one side, there's a ready supply of Old and New Testament Bibles.
"Typically, half a dozen people show up, plus an organist, although tour groups can boost attendance to 25 or so. The most was about 45 at the inaugural service. Occasionally it's just one person.
"Having finished with his service on a Sunday, Oas relaxes in one of the chairs. He tells two women who enter that there's nobody available to conduct the Catholic service. The Catholic chaplain resigned in October.
"We provide ministry to everyone and anything," says Oas, who wears a chain with a gold cross around his neck and a Port of Seattle identification badge with his picture. "I don't have a church - this is my parish. My parish is everything from the traditional to the nontraditional."
"Oas said he works mostly with airport employees, while Sea-Tac Ministries volunteers assist travelers.
"He believes his task is to bring faith to a segment of the population that, because of their jobs and unusual work schedules, doesn't fit into a Sunday come-to-meeting setting.
"Oas, also a chaplain for both the Seattle and Port of Seattle police departments, has helped provide safe havens for women fleeing abusive husbands, assisted stranded passengers, comforted people stricken by grief, counseled one on one and headed study groups on chemical dependency and family issues.
"You're brought in maybe when a secretary starts crying at her desk - maybe her teenager has run away," says Oas, who also performs baptisms and up to 40 marriages a year - a few of them at the airport, including one last fall of an Alaska Airlines employee.
"But there are limits even for an organization like Sea-Tac Ministries, which relies on individual contributions and donations from churches and Christian organizations for its existence. It's not possible to meet every request for help.
"Someone asks us for food or lodging on a weekly basis and they supposedly have nothing," Oas says. "We have to discern very carefully who we can help."
"He believes the long-term goal of Sea-Tac Ministries is to serve not only the airport but also the greater SeaTac area, including the nearby Pacific Highway South hotel-motel strip and Southcenter Mall.
"The organization has a board of directors headed by Tim Kimsey, deputy chief of the Port of Seattle police, and also is involved in emergency planning at the airport." (Link 1.)
"About 70 volunteers who have passed background checks and take mandatory training every six months are on a list to assist with survivors and relatives in case of a crash at the airport.
"Like other volunteers at Sea-Tac Ministries, Howard Johnson, a retired Boeing engineer, wears gray slacks and a blue blazer. His chaplaincy insignia, a triangle enclosing a golden circle and a white cross, covers the pocket of his jacket.
"One incident stands out among all others for Johnson, who works four-hour shifts at the airport on Tuesday and Friday and is on call other times.
"During the Christmas holidays several years ago, Johnson was called to an airport bar to try and reason with a medical-equipment salesman from the East Coast. Cocktail waitresses were concerned because of the man's heavy drinking.
"At first, the man told Johnson he didn't need him. But then he confided to Johnson that he had received a call from home saying that his daughter was critically ill from an unknown cause.
"He was afraid to go home to face it," Johnson recalls, "because there had been two deaths and two near-deaths in his family that year, and he had had a heart attack five months earlier."
"Finally, after talking further with Johnson, the man decided he should fly home. Johnson helped him buy his ticket and make other arrangements.
" "I know God sent you to me," the man said. Johnson never heard from him again.
" "We are available for spiritual issues - we also want to be their friends," said Oas, whose wife Kathleen also is a volunteer. "If people want to talk to somebody we want to talk to them . . . we want to be somebody they can trust." " (Link 1.)
Thank you: To Ilene A. McCune, Associate Chaplain for information about the
                 Airport Chapel and Meditation Room, 2013.
Photos: Taken in 2013 by SW.
Link 1:
Link 2:
Link 3:
Link 4:

(Note: In the fall of 2016 I was at SEATAC Airport and noticed that the chapel 
              was no longer there.  I asked an employee about it.  She said it hadn't 
              been there for about a year because of remodeling of the airport.  But
              she said she thought it would be relocated when the remodeling was 

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