Keeping Holy Ground Holy

A new survey suggests that seekers are not looking for user-friendly, mall-like buildings.
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In full view of drivers whizzing by on Interstate 75 near Atlanta, the Church of the Apostles is majestic, stately, and soaring. It's also daring: the building looks unmistakably and instantly like a church.

This decade-old neo-Gothic Anglican megachurch is layered with stone walls, a thick tower that hoists a cross, and half-oval windows in the shape universally known as "church window." While its original building plan called for theater seating—the sanctuary seats about 3,000—the church instead opted for pews.

"When we built it, there was a lot of movement towards the warehouse look, with black ceilings," says Dana Blackwood, Church of the Apostles' director of facilities. "The church leadership understood that that look was going to fade. People wanted to have a sense of tradition, something that looked like a church."

The Church of the Apostles suggests a new trend in church design, one in which some congregations are rejecting the slimmed-down, boxy buildings of the last half-century and embracing a look some would call antiquated, following the ancient-future dictum that old is the new new.

"The average person is not at all repelled by Gothic or Romanesque architecture," says Robert Jaeger, executive director of Partners for Sacred Places, a nondenominational nonprofit that preserves and renews historic church buildings in the U.S. "The average person finds the symbolism and the craftsmanship compelling, beautiful, and comforting."

"There's a desire out there to connect with something ancient, something transcendent," says Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and author of Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them. "There's a hunger to move beyond a bland evangelicalism into ...

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