A veteran engineer wants to reach for the heavens by building down into the ground.
Mark Boone wants to construct an underground chapel on property adjacent to his home along Ebenezer Church Road. He plans to call the place of prayer and praise Ebenezer Chapel.
“Ebenezer means stone of help. We really hope that the chapel is that, that it’s a stone of help for our community as people experience quietness,” Boone said.
“There’s so much busy-ness in our world. Your cellphone’s not going to work underground. You’re going to have to, for a few minutes, be quiet. I think if people meditate and are quiet, and just sense creation around them, it’s going to do them some good.”
The ambitious plans began several years ago, when Boone was sitting by a spring which powered a mill grain on the property in the 1800s. He said he had an idea to build a chapel in the quarry next door, which has thick granite and gneiss hundreds of feet deep.
“The idea was to build a chapel under the ground that would let people see the rock,” Boone said.
“There’s no other explanation other than I think it came from the Holy Spirit. I mean, how are people inspired? Who inspired Eiffel to come up with his idea about the Eiffel Tower? Who inspired the Catholic priests in 1850 to build the Christ the Redeemer statue (in Brazil)?”
Boone makes it clear that he is not interested in starting a church. He is a member of Hope Community Church, and said pastors from the church support plans for an “ecumenical” chapel which could be used by many congregations.
There are also ideas of hosting weddings, concerts, and recording sessions, as Boone boasts of the acoustics evident through computer models. Those same simulations project mid-50s temperatures year-round.
“Eventually we hope it becomes a sacred space If enough people pray in a particular spot, then there’s something sort of magical that occurs,” Boone said.
“If they’re agnostic, I hope they come and, if nothing else, just sense the presence of the rock that is already here, and sense the quietness, the peace. I think that so much of our world is so busy that we frequently don’t take time to sit down and be quiet. By coming from the nature, entering into the tunnel, and then walking around and coming into the space, just by the experience, it’s going to make you feel quiet. It’s going to make you feel peaceful, and that’s what we hope.”
The Boones post a nativity scene by the road every Christmas, and a cross during Holy Week leading up to and through Easter. People stop and take pictures of the displays, and he believes expansion into a large site will have an “if you build it, they will come” response similar to Field of Dreams.
It will require a bigger investment than converting a corn field into a baseball diamond.
“It’s going to cost $5 million. I don’t have the $5 million today but my hope is that happens,” Boone said. The website for the project has a section for donations.
“For me personally, the benefit is to be able to see people that may otherwise not know about faith or may have issues. If they can come and they can find peace and comfort and we can help them, then why not,” he said.
“If we can use it to bring some reconciliation to the community, if we can build something for people in 7018 to look at, I mean, wow.”
This is a long-term vision. Boone and his partners in designing the sanctuary want the site to last for centuries. For more information about the project and its plans, visit the Ebenezer Chapel website.
Boone will meet with the Raleigh Zoning Board on Friday to request a permit to rebuild the Old Cooke’s Mill on his property. He will also host a community information session on July 5 at Glen Eden Park.