These are some notes summarizing a recent presentation at a TPC congregational meeting, laying out plans for a long term building project.
The session recently formed a building committee to develop a master plan for our property that ties into our vision for our congregation as a whole. When we purchased this property, we knew we would be worshiping in what is basically a fellowship hall for many years. And that’s what we’ve been doing. This building is wonderful in many ways but it is not ideally suited to our form of worship. So it has been our goal from the time we moved here in 2020 to eventually build a proper sanctuary. Of course there are other facility needs we need to address too, such as classroom and choir space; there has been interest in possibly doing a school or at least having more space for homeschool co-ops and other gatherings; and so on.
But any time a church starts talking about buildings, that has to be justified, given the expense. I can assure you that our session will take a conservative approach to financing any building project. That means we do not want to get over-extended. We will operate within our means. I can also assure that the session would never let a building fund eat into other ministries we are committed to supporting, especially global missions.
So how does a building fit into our overall vision? Specifically, how does a sanctuary fit? Liturgy is at the heart of our church life. We believe everything flows out of the Lord’s people gathering on the Lord’s Day for the Lord’s service. Corporate worship is the heart of the Christian life. It’s the most important, foundational thing we do. Obviously the church can gather anywhere, even in the catacombs if we have to. Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, Christ is there. Fancy buildings are not essential. But they are not non-essential either. They are vital. It makes no sense to say that corporate worship is the most important thing we do but then say the kind of architectural environment in which we meet does not matter. We are not gnostics. The physical and the spatial matter. The building serves the vision, but the building is a way of embodying the vision. A physical sanctuary is way of turning what we believe about God, the church, and the liturgy into a concrete reality. A sanctuary is a way pouring out our theology in glass, brick, and stone. That matters.
Your family needs a home. People need a place. Your family will never have any cohesion, you’ll never develop a family culture, without a place you can call your own. That’s true for a church family too. We need a place we can identify with for the long haul. We moved here 3 years ago with the hope of putting down roots and locking ourselves into this part of Birmingham long term. Building a sanctuary that is beautiful and glorious is a way of doing that. It shows we are committed to this place and this people. We are want to beautify this space. We want to make a sliver of God’s glory visible here.
Further, any institution that wants to survive over the long haul needs to have owned space. A local church is an institution. We want to build a building where our great great grandchildren can worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. We want to build a legacy here. We want to establish a heritage. Obviously a building does not guarantee that — there are cathedrals all over Europe and in American cities that prove that a beautiful building alone will not sustain faith from generation to the next. But we believe it can help. We want TPC to be a hub for the CREC and for our approach to church life and culture for generations to come and a sanctuary can help provide that anchor. Obviously we are not talking about a medieval style cathedral — that’s out of reach. But we want build something fitting, something beautiful, something glorious.
So with all of that in view, the session has formed a building committee to start the process. Right now, we are talking with different architectural firms. We should sign on with an architect by the end of the year and begin working on a master plan that will include a sanctuary and potentially other improvements to our seven acres here. This is a long term undertaking. We need to figure out cost. We need to figure out how to raise funds. We need to see how much growth God brings us over the next several years — hopefully quite a bit! We need to figure out how long it will take to have the money on hand to turn the master plan into reality. But that’s where we are. As always, direct any questions to your elders.