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Woodstock Community Church

How does a non-denominational community church reinvigorate itself while staying true to its core goals of being about community, not about program?

Woodstock Community Church (WCC), located in the growing rural town of Woodstock, Georgia (35 miles north of Atlanta), found its answer in a God-given opportunity to build an entirely new facility. 

WCC is affiliated with The Great Commission Association (GCA), an association of evangelical Christian church in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In 1986, WCC began when it was planted by a group of people who were part of the Campus Church at Clemson University. Church members originally met in Roswell in various locations until 1989 when it purchased a church building from First Baptist Woodstock. 

After some 20 years in the aging traditional church building that was not conducive to the church’s spiritual growth, WCC was approached by the City of Woodstock about selling its church building. It proved to be a blessing. An agreement was made, and WCC sold its old building and purchased a wooded site just a mile from the town center.  The search for a new design was underway.

Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, Architects (TSW) was brought in to provide the design solution. TSW, based in Atlanta, works with clients to take projects from the conceptual phase to master planning to permitting to construction documents and through all of the critical steps in between. According to the firm’s website, “We are not only committed to creative and innovative designs, but also think in terms of implementation and the actual built project, which ensures an efficient overall process.”

From the first meeting, TSW focused on clearly understanding WCC’s message and ministry, and importantly, the physical character WCC wanted its facility to display to the community. Embracing the church’s vision of a more natural, organic ministry that emphasized intimacy over grandness, the design process focused on the creation of multiple gathering spaces characterized by natural light and fresh, contemporary finishes.  Through a truly collaborative effort between the ministers and the designer, a forward-leaning “Woodland Modernism” theme was deemed appropriate for WCC’s diverse congregation.

The design solution for the 19,000-square-foot facility creates three individual structures -- the 300-seat Sanctuary; the Fellowship Hall, accommodating weekly dining and basketball events; and the Educational Wing designed for a future second floor expansion -- each with its own distinctive form and site orientation. A central gathering space and two exterior courtyards link the structures. True to the church’s goal of enhanced fellowship among its members, this organic design approach acknowledges the four-acre woodland site (views to the outdoors, even in the Sanctuary, are embraced by the ministers) and creates a variety of casual multi-use spaces. 

"The use of natural light in the sanctuary is always something a building committee should seriously consider,” said Jerry Spangler, AIA, LEED AP with TSW. “The ecclesiastical tradition of natural light impacting a church's sanctuary is very important to me as a designer. The ebb and flow of sunlight and shadow on the sanctuary space and its windows really can remind us of God's presence, and the beautiful world he created beyond the church walls. With today's high-tech shading and curtain controls and almost limitless choices of colored and translucent glass, a church can successfully blend light-filled moments and darkened AV presentations into their order of service."
At the Woodstock Community Church, Pastor Greg Michael fully embraced this concept. Even with the church's modest budget, strategic placement of clear and frosted glass enables filtered views of the sky and the wooded site. With remote controls, he can activate near-soundless lowering of light darkening fabrics at each window component as the prelude to his sermon or praise music pieces.

Internally, natural stone and locally milled and fabricated birch and walnut hardwoods accent the sanctuary and main gathering lobby, continuing the woodland modern syntax.  Externally, the off-white/warm gray/green color scheme reinforces the desired contemporary imagery.

Realization of the design was achieved within a construction budget of $2,530,000.  Although outwardly not appearing as such, the Sanctuary and the Fellowship Hall utilize a pre-engineered metal frame and roof for economy. A thoughtful blending of exposed ceiling elements (structure, HVAC) with fully finished walls also contribute to the facility’s economy. 

WCC members moved into the new church building in December 2010, and the new facility is proving to be successful. With the ability to now prepare dinners via the Fellowship Hall kitchen, attendance at the Wednesday Night Services has grown from 12 to 150. With properly sized classrooms and multi-use spaces (and yes, new bathrooms), community uses such as drama and music classes, home school support programs and AA classes occur now on a weekly basis.

“We are now blessed with a building tailored to our ministry…the joy of knowing Christ and making Him known has been enhanced and we are grateful for that,” Pastor Michael said.

Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, Architects is an award-winning, full-service planning, architecture, and landscape architecture firm. TSW works throughout the Southeast on projects ranging from downtown planning studies to mixed-use developments to streetscape projects, www.tsw-design.com.

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Religious Product News