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Christ the King Catholic Church - Pine Mountain, Georgia
By: Jennifer-Walker Journey

Christ the King Catholic Church sits at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, close to the new entrance of Calloway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, as if inviting visitors of the grand gardens to walk onto the church grounds and continue their exploration of God’s glory. Those visitors, after all, are one of the reasons why the church community was founded more than 30 years ago.

The story of Christ the King began in the 1960s, when the Harris County Catholic community, led by Father Lawrence A. Lucree, started celebrating Mass in peoples’ homes and at Calloway Gardens. In 1972, a chalet-style church was erected in the area. It served the community and visitors to the gardens well, but as it became more popular, a larger church was in order. By 2002, Father Ronnie Madden had become Priest in Residence and, with the support of his parishioners, purchased 18 acres near the gardens in anticipation of a new church.

In November 2006, Christ the King was officially declared a parish church of the Savannah Diocese, promoted from a mission church. Its membership was motivated to raise money to see that a church large enough to seat 400 was built on the lovely grounds.

The Savannah Diocese wanted to find an architecture firm that was well-versed in liturgical design, as well as experienced in high-profile projects. Thus, the Atlanta Archdiocese recommended CDH Partners, a firm out of Marietta, Georgia, that offers planning, architecture, interior design, and engineering services.

“The leaders of the church carefully communicated their vision,” said Thomas Smith, principal in charge with CDH. “They wanted a place of peace – serene and natural – the place where one transitions from everyday life to a celebration of the mysteries of faith.”

The details were modest. The church wanted to begin with a new building with a narthex/lobby space, worship area with seating for 400, restrooms, and a multipurpose meeting/bride’s room. The master plan would encompass the goal of one day adding a parish hall, education space, and administrative offices.

Most importantly, Father Madden expressed, the church needed to “blend with the natural surroundings of the site.” Father Madden was also inspired by the Catholic Bishops guidelines “Living Stones” and led the architects to use wood, stone, glass, and concrete in the design of the new building.

It was a challenge to build a church that had the same feel and appearance consistent with the nearby rustic timber-framed resort structures nestled in the magnificent Calloway Gardens, but also inspire awe and be recognizable as a church, but the architects of CDH were well prepared. They used natural materials such as fieldstone, board and batten wood siding, and hand-rubbed concrete on the building’s exterior. Inside, they chose rich-stained wood timbers and ceilings complemented by an interior color scheme of muted earth tones.

“From the main worship space, whether through an expansive north-facing window along the nave or through the unique bay windows flanking the sanctuary, the congregation has numerous opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the building’s natural surroundings,” Smith said.

The church complemented this space with stained glass windows created by the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, and heavy rough hewn wood sanctuary furnishings hand-carved by Fred Mortenson of Fayetteville, Georgia.

The building was situated on the site for optimal day lighting. The large nave window wall also was positioned so that it admits abundant light, while avoiding heat gain and glare.

“It also faces a wooded portion of the property and helps connect congregants to the tranquil natural setting,” Smith added.

The chancel furnishings also were custom designed by CDH, which served in the capacity of liturgical designer.

Much consideration was also given to the parking area, which is disguised behind the building. Parishioners approach the church through a serene wooded area.

The natural beauty of the material used in the church was highlighted throughout, which created some challenges in the building process. For example, exposing the ceiling in the worship space offered no ceiling cavity to conceal the HVAC ductwork. Ultimately, the architects worked to have the HVAC units and ductwork positioned to satisfy the criteria of low mechanical noise and to meet the high aesthetic standard that was established by the surrounding architecture.

Just 18 months after the groundbreaking, Christ the King dedicated its new church. By the time the church was complete, all funds had been raised.

“You could say that the whole range of individuals who were part of the parish – pastor, parishioners, benefactors, and visitors from throughout the country – pitched in to pay their part,” Father Madden said.

The congregation of Christ the King relishes the fact that their vision for a worship space was fully realized and serves as a symbol of the area’s vibrant Catholic community. The church is now focused on constructing the next phase of the master plan—adding a parish hall, classrooms for religious education, and administrative offices.

CDH Partners, Inc. is a diverse group of architects, engineers, interior designers, and supporting staff connected by a common sense of purpose, www.cdhpartners.com.

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