We’ve been living in our new church home for six months now, and that’s time enough to consider whether the new building is living up to our expectations. Just for fun, I looked back into some old church newsletters (in italics) to see what we were thinking during the planning stages of our new building…
Think about the Lord we worship when we gather on Sunday morning. Theologians describe God as both “transcendent” and “immanent.” Transcendence refers to the God who is greater than we can imagine, whose “ways are higher than our ways and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Immanence reminds us that God is among us, both in Christ, the “Word who became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14), and as the Holy Spirit who works in and through people.
A place of worship often reflects one or the other of these aspects of God. Walk into a cathedral, and your eyes rise to the vaulted ceiling high above, to the magnificent stained glass, and the resulting feeling of awe reminds you of the greatness of the God who created the universe. Walk into the sanctuary of current home on Sears Boulevard, with its angled pews and cozy surroundings, and the warmth of the room reminds you of the God who comes to us in the community of the church, the God who is as near to us as our very breath.
Our church is seeking to build a sanctuary that will reflect both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence…the greatness of God and the nearness of God. Our new worship home has a high ceiling, peaking in the center, with a cross centered on a circular glass window. While larger than our present sanctuary, the new church will be only ten rows deep (currently it’s sixteen pews deep), with the side pews angled, creating a sense of closeness and community as God’s people gathered together. The pews, the cross, the central communion table, and of course our stained glass windows will remind us of our worship home for the last fifty years.
When you enter the new church to worship in 2007, will you sense both the closeness and the grandeur of God? Will you encounter the God of mystery and passion who is beyond our imagining, yet also meet the God who comes to us in the faces of our friends and neighbors? That is our hope, and our prayer.
The words I hear indicate that people find our sanctuary to be a beautiful, holy place, that lifts the spirit to the God who is both among us and beyond what we can possibly conceive. And that’s before the creative work our worship committee has done to prepare the sanctuary for Advent and Christmas!
What’s a Narthex?
Our new church on Gages Lake Road is laid out a little differently than our current home. First of all, it’s a one story design, which allows for ease of access to all rooms and a floor plan that is simple to navigate. And second, all roads lead to the narthex! What does that mean?
The narthex in our current home, as in many churches, is a small entryway to the sanctuary. After worship, we now exit in two directions: through the door by the pulpit into a narrow stairwell and into the narthex, which effectively funnels people out the front door. Thus, our church design actually encourages people to leave the building!
In our new church home, the narthex will be the crossroads for all church activities. The main entrance opens into our new narthex, which is large enough to serve as a fellowship hall (2500 sq. feet), and in fact will do just that on many occasions. The Christian education hallways empty into the narthex. The kitchen has a door into the narthex, and the gym opens into the narthex. All exits from the sanctuary will be into this spacious, comfortable narthex, where coffee hour will be offered after worship and where there is room enough for people to mingle, converse, and fellowship together.
The narthex will be largely open space, with chairs and endtables providing conversation areas. Rather than encouraging people to leave, our architecture will now invite people to stay, to connect and enjoy one another’s company. We may have to come up with a new name to call this place that will become the central gathering space for our church life!
Indeed, we’re not calling it a narthex anymore; now it’s our Fellowship Hall, and from the beginning it has been a place for the connecting of friends old and new. Before and after worship, weddings, funerals, any and all events, the Fellowship Hall is full of conversation and refreshment, overachieving its’ desired ends. And the kitchen has proven to be well-designed, functional, and a happy place to cook and serve!
Does a Church Need a Gym?
The quick answer to that question would be, “no.” Gyms and the recreational opportunities they afford can be found in schools, clubs, lots of places. A church needs a sanctuary, and education rooms, and a place for fellowship, but surely not a gym.
However…WPC has had a gym for 30 years now. Could the fact that our church has a gym have something to do with how active our youth and children’s programs are? Might the games, sports, and fun that take place in our gym be part of what keeps young people coming? What new possibilities might there be for fellowship, recreation, and ministry with a functional gym?
And so our new church will have a gym that is somewhat larger than our current gym, with basketball hoops on either end. The new gym will have a full-size volleyball court, and the baskets will drop lower than ten feet for younger children to play. Concrete block walls will enable the tough use that a gym requires.
The gym will also serve as a fellowship hall for meals and gatherings. An acoustic ceiling will help with sound, as will the scalloped concrete block pattern on the walls. The synthetic gym floor will be suitable for athletics and quick cleanup. A serving window from the kitchen to the gym enables easy access for meals.
Our gym will be the home for PADS, Boy and Cub Scouts, youth group activities, and many church meals. The possibilities for further use are endless: an after school program, floor hockey, volleyball for adults, and so on. If you would like to be on a team to consider future uses of our new gym, please email or call the church office.
We’re just beginning to tap the potential of this tremendous space for ministry, fellowship, and fun. Our kids of all ages already love it, and in December we’ll begin to offer opportunities for the adults to play, too. The gym is a fine home to PADS and Scouts. As a venue for dinners and refreshments, the gym not only provides a place to eat, but you can actually conduct a conversation with 200 other people in the room. We’re delighted with how the gym has worked out.
In fact, the design of our new church has already exceeded our hopes and dreams. The architecture enables us to even better be the worshipful, mission-oriented, children-and-youth-focused, and friendly congregation we have always been, and to begin to dream of new ways to be the people of God in this time and place.
Grace and peace to you and yours,