REINVENTING THE MAIN STREET CHURCH
Architects share certain traits with beggars and thieves. While a beggar may hunger for food, architects hunger for that special client that opens the door for the opportunity to dream. Such relationships are a driving force in an architect's professional life and demand in return commitment and accountability.
Also, architects are notorious thieves. We make a living stealing ideas (some may call it borrowing). In our business, we repackage, transform and reinvent ideas in order to create a place of value for our clients that can be pleasing to the eye and in some cases may even empower the spirit of man. But rarely do we create an idea that is truly new in any revolutionary sense. Disney said it well. "We don't invent, we just do better what we did before". Creation in its purest form is left to The Creator. The measure of our talent as architects generally has more to do with our ability to assimilate, organize and express ideas within the built environment. Done well, the end product has the appearance of something that is new, fresh and inventive. This borrowing of ideas is the fuel that stokes the fire of continuos reinvention.
Because of this, architects may be seen as sharing certain commonalties with beggars and thieves. When you add original sin to the equation, a certain point or view emerges. What heartens me is knowing that Jesus has unlimited love for scoundrels. The story of Jesus also suggests that we are likely to find God's unconditional love on Main Street where beggars, thieves and sinners abound and where, coincidentally, architects and other consultants can be found.
Also, I approach this subject with a certain humility. While some may
view Main Street as an American 19th century phenomenon, the subject
of Main Street has been widely studied through the ages by mapmakers,
prophets, philosophers and seekers. Some examples of how others have
approached the subject:
The community campus offers just such a platform. It represents far more than a particular building or arrangement of buildings. It is intended to be a center of community life, developed within a very special architectural, educational, recreational and spiritual context. Its pervasive goal is to change the way we live, work and play. It is the task of architecture to translate that aspiration into physical reality.
My own preparation and background for this unique undertaking is somewhat
unorthodox in the context of church projects. In 1995 I was asked by
Walt Kallestad and the Joy Company to design a master plan for Community
of Joy on the banks of New River in Glendale, Arizona. DAPA then had
a fifteen-year track record centered on diverse projects involving:
At the time, however, our firm's church experience would best be described as uneventful and almost non-existent.
We have been fortunate to work with clients that could be described as entrepreneurial, passionate and visionary. In many cases, our clients have pursued a dream that is untested and sometimes outside the box of conventional thinking. Hopefully our background is sufficiently diverse to be appealing to clients looking for ideas and solutions unencumbered by pre-conception. Whatever the reason, such leaps of faith are inspirational.
Translated, we come into the field as generalist practitioners of architecture
and planning, firmly committed to pursuing professional excellence in
a collaborative and often complex environment.
While you can accurately describe me as un-churched when commissioned by Joy, it is fair to say there has been a noble effort by my family as well as by God's loving hand to cultivate the spirit that lies within. A twenty-four year marriage to a nurturing elementary school teacher -the mother of our three children- has advanced the cause. I now think of myself as a work in progress, thanks to my many friends in the church.
Having burdened you with perhaps too much family history, I will move on to the subject at hand - "Reinventing the Main Street Church". However, before addressing that subject we might examine once again the beguiling Main Street idea. During the last century our society witnessed Main Street's rise and fall. At its best, Main Street served as a vital commercial, cultural, institutional and social place. At its worst, Main Street assumed a far more tattered reality, subject to urban violence and the flight of capital, sometimes functioning more as a figurative place where inequities and social injustice were on display. Despite the many sociological and economic challenges that confront the modern realities of Main Street, its future is promising for those determined to foster change.
America's attachment to Main Street is also evidenced in both the attractions and retail industries:
Reinvention of Main Street has to a large extent been fueled by the blending of entertainment with retail functions. The successful mix combined with a distinctive setting, be it Main Street, Market Street, a warehouse district, waterfront or neighborhood, can tap into a human need that invites us to come together in places of public attraction. This need to congregate publicly while shopping, eating and having fun is powerful. No wonder churches are turning to such context to better understand the needs of their parishioners and the challenge of reaching the un-churched.
To reinvent the Main Street Church, we will need to recognize that
Main Street has always been subject to and dependent on retrofit and
reconfiguration. We can also learn from what is occurring in related
industries that surround us, be they entertainment, retail, food service,
hospitality, recreation or housing. If the church is to pursue successfully
those ministries that respond to the spiritual, physical and mental
health of individuals and families through all their stages of life
in preparation for the promise of eternal life, then it will need to
educate, communicate and welcome partners as it goes about this ambitious
task. The credo is exactly what Walt Disney championed:
The challenges and complexities of pursuing what is often referred to as "cradle to grave" ministries are many. The fiduciary responsibilities are real. A development framework for implementation is essential. Flexibility is paramount. For the church, the need to grow expanding ministries organically, intelligently, within the realities of economic and operational constraints and the need to project a vision that stirs the hearts and minds of its members are paramount. There is no one solution that works for every church anymore than there are two identical churches.
As in entertainment and retail, the mix of ministries and the qualities of each campus can create a vision for the church and how it sees itself. It is a process of implementation that requires creativity, collective energy, teamwork, sharpened management and organizational skills, and the courage and determination to make things better. Faith is clearly the catalyst. It can change not only the life of the individual but also the quality of community life.
We are also stewards of the land. Blessings of nature are bestowed
upon us. Churches have a special responsibility to lead humanity toward
a heightened and enlightened environmental responsibility. We will be
judged collectively and individually.
This outward reach is occurring at a time when the world is marked by forces of rapid-fire change. Advances in transportation, telecommunications, science, medicine and the technologies of war have followed us from one century to the next. The gentle and powerful face of the planet, the rich diversity and complexity of nature, even the patterns of weather are feeling the punches of new technology and the weight of numbers. Our social patterns and our sense of community are frequently under assault. Many churches are responding by embracing a powerful and broad range of ministries that serve communities. These ministries are frequently engaged in partnerships with non-profits, public agencies and the business community.
What does "Community" mean to the church? People, families, individuals are on the go. Many of us have very programmed, fast paced lifestyles. Whether we are working or at play, the historic institutions that fostered community are not there as they were. The mom & pop corner store, the friendly bank, the small school, the local gas station, the safe street have often disappeared. A sense of community is what people want.
What do we mean by sense of community? To feel safe, to be a part of a caring neighborhood, to be a member, to find joy in sharing experiences with those around you.
How are we responding? Retail developers are building themed environments that create social and physical forms of community. Residential developers are building lifestyle communities with thematic and reassuring identities. Resort developers are building highly submersive environments where guests share in the magic, pleasure, and comforts of the community. City officials and urban planners are striving for solutions and ideas that transform downtown into friendly and inviting communities. And for years the theme park has provided a unique form of community for its guests.
How is the church responding? Successful churches clearly understand the value of community. It is what they offer. They are reaching out to the un-churched, addressing issues that affect people's real lives and offering a wide range of relevant services provided in a friendly community environment.
In doing so, churches are building environments that are sometimes secular and more familiar to people. Such places as malls, specialty stores, food-courts, themed restaurants, coffee houses, theaters, sports parks and family entertainment centers, to name a few, may provide not only expanded ministry opportunities, but suggest special environmental settings and qualities that may be appropriately transposed into the fabric and development framework of a church community campus. In addition to these built environments, their associated technologies, operational practices and services suggest ideas and practices that may be helpful to churches seeking to expand outreach. I will site a few examples of our firm's work to illustrate how this has been done:
COMMUNITY OF JOY - GLENDALE, ARIZONA
Most of all, Community of Joy is a place where children, young people and adults enjoy opportunities for recreational, educational, spiritual, and inspirational growth. It is a mission center with a social infrastructure-inducing congregation in many forms. A key element of the plan (only partly developed) is an outdoor pedestrian promenade connecting the building blocks of the mission center campus. The master plan provides for a social infrastructure that is indoor and outdoor, formal and informal, expansive yet intimate. The Phase I Development Plan was completed in 1998 and encompasses approximately 40-acres. A second stage of development is now underway and includes Celebration Village, the Memorial Gardens at Arrowhead, Joy Leadership Center and The Crossing (a youth recreation center).
KEYSTONE COMMUNITY CAMPUS - RENO, NEVADA
The primary objective of the development is to create resources for use by the entire Truckee Meadows community. These resources may include child and senior care facilities; performing arts facilities; open space; youth recreation and educational facilities; commercial real estate; and cemetery and mortuary facilities. Some projects will be developed in association with for-profit entities, which will also be primarily responsible for development and management.
A number of factors conditioned the approach to this development plan,
including the following:
In December 1999, the City of Reno approved annexation of the property and a zone change request for a community campus development. The Regional Planning Commission approved the zone change in January 2000. DAPA is presently assisting Keystone Community Corporation in the design of the Phase I Development Plan. Like Community of Joy, Keystone Community Campus offers opportunities for continuous reinvention as the mission center grows.
The vision for Church of the Valley master plan is to reposition the mission center within a new campus setting reflective of its town center location. The vision of the new Worship Center is both traditional and modern. The architecture is contextual. The history of the site, the nature of the community and the opportunity to create its own campus context are each contributing forces to the design of the Worship Center. The Church of the Valley master plan reinforces the maxim - "sometimes you have to look back to go forward".
THE LIGHTHOUSE - ROSEMOUNT, MINNESOTA
The concept provides for a Phase I development of the Worship Center and perimeter concourse lined with stores, a food-court, offices, meeting rooms and storage. The concourse also allows for the future growth of ministries that connect into the central hub of the Worship Center complex. Future ministries include a recreation center, performing arts center, schools and administrative center.
The Lighthouse serves as a mission center and a beacon to the community. It symbolizes in its theme structure the landmark nature of the complex itself.
In a state that prides itself as a land of a thousand lakes and is home to Mall of America and Governor Ventura, the Lighthouse offers a unique development strategy for churches entering the new millennium. It is a vision that is perhaps more Main Place than Main Street. Its architecture is more about how to organize events than about buildings. It is an idea that invites reinvention and rededication to the church's mission.
IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH - CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS
The Community Church Campus master plan features a well-landscaped backbone road that provides an important connection to the downtown roadway network and surrounding communities. A Senior Village containing duplexes and assisted living units is located west and south of the spine road. The balance of the property north and east of the backbone road is planned as a mission center complex to be developed in stages based on needs and financing. This mission center complex includes a 2000-seat worship center, family life center, food-court, 250-child care center, 500-student primary school and an aquatics and recreational center. A chapel and memorial garden development and a commercial site are also included within the master plan.
While Immanuel Lutheran Church continues to evaluate growth strategies, the master plan vision may suggest ways in which a community church campus mission center can be a vital partner in renewing and reinventing town center settings.
LORD OF LIFE COMMUNITY CHURCH - RAMSEY, MINNESOTA
The church's on-going land acquisition effort has expanded the existing 10-acre site to approximately 35-acres. Potential acquisitions can expand the site to approximately 47-acres. The campus master plan allows for a phased development. The existing 1-story church complex will be expanded to include a new multi-purpose gymnasium and Sunday School to the north and a larger worship center to the south. In addition, a new 7.3-acre "prairie" themed memorial garden is planned at the south end of the campus. Duplex cottage units for seniors are located along the eastern boundary of the property. Assisted senior housing is planned at the north end of the property. Adjacent roadway improvements and improved access to the property from the north and east are also incorporated into the overall master plan.
There is much to be learned from Lord of Life Community Church. The church has steadily acquired property to expand its site, beginning with its first 10-acre purchase in 1991. Along with its acquisitions, Lord of Life has also expanded its outreach. The master plan provides a development framework for its 35-acre property as well as for further campus expansion.
In addition, the memorial garden development has been "seeded"
by the installation of column buriems temporarily located near the existing
church. A multi-use gymnasium project is currently underway. The senior
housing development remains a priority project. Lord of Life Community
Church campus already shines as a Main Place to the surrounding community
as it continues to grow.
The charrette was conducted with the Schuller family and church staff and operated in the original "storyboard" conference style developed by Walt Disney.
The charrette proceedings, discussions and subsequent site analysis led to a development concept for the site. It is also important to recognize that prior planning efforts and a steady and committed stewardship of the property by the church under Dr Robert Schuller has led to a vision for the project that is custom tailored to the site.
A number of project objectives for the Visitor/Hospitality Center were identified as important to CCM. These included the following:
The design themes reflected in the Visitor/Hospitality Center project include:
Project identity is enhanced by utilizing the Visitor/Hospitality Center to serve as a portal gateway symbolizing the importance of welcoming and orienting visitors to the Crystal Cathedral campus, while also introducing opportunities for expanded ministry by church members.
Project identity is further developed by creating a spacious lobby, store, café, banquet rooms and garden terraces in a central location that accommodates members and guests in a joyous and welcoming setting.
In addition, the Visitor/Hospitality Center builds upon the superb campus setting by further enhancing the image and sense of place for the overall property. It reinforces the idea that the Crystal Cathedral Ministries is a special place to visit and enjoy.
The programmatic content of the Visitor/Hospitality Center is defined by two primary components - the Welcome Center and Museum. In addition, the development program includes allowance for future expansion areas and appropriate back-of-house functions.
The Welcome Center is contained on two levels - one at grade level and the other at below grade. The Welcome Center at grade level contains the main entrances, the grand lobby and related circulation, church store, reception, ticketing, lounge areas, and a portion of back-of-house functions. Total area at grade level is 14,500 square feet.
The lower level of the Welcome Center contains the café and dining areas, banquet/meeting rooms, public restrooms, kitchen and back-of-house areas. Total area at below grade is 16,000 square feet.
The Museum is located on the second floor. Access to the Museum is from the grand lobby via stairs and elevators. The Museum contains exhibition space and a media center with four (4) small video theaters. Total area of the second floor is 16,500 feet.
The third floor provides for future expansion space for the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Possible uses might include an art gallery with permanent and rotating exhibits, receptions, community meeting rooms, office, etc. In addition, outdoor deck areas for entertainment and special events are provided. Total area of the third floor is 10,000 square feet, excluding deck areas.
The Crystal Cathedral is uniquely positioned to deliver a memorable
and inspiring experience to those that visit this special campus. The
clarity of vision and the sustaining commitment of Dr. Robert Schuller's
dream have inspired all of us with a joyful appreciation of "What
God has done and can yet do."
Reinventing the Main Street Church is important work. It is a journey of faith. It is happening at the turn of a new millenium. The expanded functions of the mission center can create centers of community life where love and faith prosper. Inevitably mistakes will be made. Flexibility is required to minimize error. It is a call for responding to the needs of your community and expanding outreach. Above all:
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