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Stevensville Seventh-day Adventist Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

Stevensville Seventh-day Adventist Church
Stevensville, Michigan

When Stan Hickerson first interviewed with leadership at Stevensville (Michigan) Seventh-day Adventist Church, he said one of his favorite things was building new churches. As a pastor who had served in churches in Los Angeles where he was exposed to numerous innovative designs, Hickerson had a great appreciation of architecture.

But Stevensville Seventh-day Adventist didn’t need a new building. In fact, the church had just completed construction on a new 9,000-square-foot sanctuary with seating for 300, a generous lobby, handicap-accessible restrooms, and a library. The new building stood alongside the church’s original 1970s-era building, a two-story facility that housed classrooms and fellowship hall.

However, just a few months after Hickerson signed on to lead Stevensville Seventh-day Adventist Church in worship, a fire destroyed the original building. The church had no choice but to tear down the original building and rebuild. Despite the loss, the church focused on the positive side – the new building could be designed to address their most pressing needs.

For the project, Stevensville Seventh-day Adventist turned to architect Stanley M. Bell. Bell, based in Berrien Springs, Michigan, had worked on the sanctuary design just a few years earlier. Hickerson said he was confident Bell could design the new building to complement the existing sanctuary. What he didn’t expect was the personal attention the architect gave the project by meeting with the entire congregation.

Bell handed out long questionnaires for membership to answer focusing on their needs and vision for the new building. Then, he divided up the crowd into interest groups – one for childcare, another for community, and so on. The groups were encouraged to brainstorm ideas that would make the new building more comfortable for members. Those meetings spawned brilliant ideas. 
First, membership wanted less congestion in the classroom areas, especially where parents drop off and pick up their children. That was remedied by having the classrooms open to a large community space. Not only could the space help relieve traffic, it could also be used for youth gatherings and fellowship.

Another idea was adding family bathrooms. Placing two family bathrooms at either end of the building – one in the community wing and the other in the education wing – gave families with special needs more privacy.

The group also suggested placing a separate entrance to the community wing, which is where the church holds blood drives and support groups that are open to the public. The main entrance of the church could be intimidating to community members who are not comfortable with church settings. The separate entrance would be more welcoming and inviting.

Bell took the information provided by the church members and designed a plan that would blend with the current sanctuary and fit comfortably into the neighborhood aesthetic. With the luxury of plenty of land to build on, the new building took shape around the sanctuary. Instead of a two-story design, the building was made to span across one level, eliminating flooding concerns and making the church more handicap-accessible.

As construction began, the church managed to keep business as usual by bringing in portable classrooms, putting up patricians in the narthex for more classroom space, and finding more space by combining administrative offices. In the new facility were four classrooms, a youth room, a teen room, a collegiate room, fellowship hall with dinner seating for 240 people, a commercially equipped kitchen, plenty of storage space, church offices, and a media resource center.

The result is a clean design that complements and accents its surroundings.

“The church could be classified as a suburban church with its residential sloped roof and low profile, but with a steeple illuminated at night to clearly distinguish the facility as a church,” Bell said.

The best news is that with insurance money and funds raised by membership, the church has already paid off its mortgage.

Stanley M. Bell, Architect, specializes in great places for people to live, work, and worship, www.StanBellArchitect.com.

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