A growing congregation of more than 800 members at St. Andrew’s On-The-Sound Episcopal Church celebrated completion of a new parish hall in June 2014.
Because the parish hall was built in response to St. Andrew’s growing community, church leaders spent years gathering input from parish members to determine what they wanted and needed in the new building before ground broke on Aug. 18, 2013.
“It’s a building that grew out of a vision that came from the heart of the congregation,” said Reverend Richard Elliott. “We’ve needed to find ways to expand, and this vision came out of the heart of the parish.”
New programs and opportunities are already welcoming parish members to inhabit the space designed with their suggestions in mind. An added weekly service is available in the parish hall on Saturday evenings, plus Elliott hosts a spiritual orientation class that helps parishioners stay present in the moment.
“We live constantly with weapons of mass distraction. We’re constantly being pulled away by cell phones, computers, electronic billboards, radio, TV. Just being some place and being quiet for a few minutes, really being present in the now and not caught in memory or planning, can be a really powerful experience,” Elliott said.
The program is offered in addition to meditation classes held every Wednesday morning.
Although the church’s youth group will not meet again until the 2014-15 school year begins, assistant rector Christopher Adams is excited the group will have its own room for the first time in the church’s history. He requested that the room be kept bare so the group can exercise its creativity and claim the space as its own — except for one request.
Adams suggested displaying five icons of Jesus represented as different ethnicities in the room. The group plans to host youth groups from other community churches once they settle into the space and Adams hopes the icons will make the room and the group’s message more inclusive to visitors.
“What excited me the most is that the youth will finally have a place to call their own. … It’s one thing to go to church that you see primarily as your parents’ church. It’s another to go to a church that feels like your own. This space will allow for that,” Adams said.
An opening ceremony June 22 allowed parishioners to tour the completed facility. Dan Knight, former senior warden who oversaw the project, said many people commented on the abundant natural light in the building, saying it uplifted them.
“It makes you feel in tune with the Holy Spirit,” Knight said.
Much of that light streams in through 65 feet of floor-to-ceiling windows, which frame an indoor corridor connecting a parking lot to the main hall where Sunday services are held. Knight said the corridor, which overlooks the church’s cemetery and newly constructed ash garden, was designed to host a contemplative journey.
“Christian life is always a journey. It’s good to think about that on a given Sunday when you come to church … to see the greenery and know that you’re moving toward the service,” Knight said.
The 7,000-square-foot building cost $1.35 million, funded by a capital campaign that allows parishioners to pledge a contribution during the course of three years.
The next step in the church’s expansion plan is to convert the old parish hall into offices for clergy and administrative staff, who currently work in a rented space on Oleander Drive.