CHRISTCHURCH, Alabama: A home of their own


Christchurch XP members ready to dedicate new facility

By Allison Griffin
http://cmsimg.montgomeryadvertiser.com/
September 11, 2010

That Christchurch XP has flourished in its five years of existence — without having a church facility to call its own — is both a blessing and a testa­ment to the faith of its members.

Now, the Anglican parish is ready to officially dedicate its new church home, a classic structure reminiscent of Eng­lish parish churches with its steep rooflines and Gothic touches.

One church member de­scribed the journey from church creation to dedication in biblical terms.

“In some ways, we’ve been in a wandering-in-the- desert kind of situation,” said church mem­ber Mose Stuart. “We’ve kind of crossed the River Jordan, and now we’re in the promised land.”

That journey to a church home began early on. First came a capital campaign to fund the construction. Then came dis­cussions on where to build and looking at sites in different parts of the city. Finding the current 15-acre property, which is on Vaughn Road in east Mont­gomery next to Southern Homes and Gardens, was a true bless­ing, Stuart said.

Then came the architectural plans, the site preparation and the actual construction. The ar­chitect, church member Les Cole, and the builders, Foshee Construction, worked to get the church ready for its first serv­ices July 11.

The church had an overflow crowd that Sunday, and it has experienced growth even since that first service. The member­ship has grown close to 700, said the Rev. John-Michael van Dyke, rector of Christchurch.

“The congregation is delight­ed to have its own home,” van Dyke said. And they’re especial­ly excited about this weekend’s dedication, which will feature several dignitaries from the An­glican church.

Among those scheduled to be in Montgomery for the festivi­ties are the Rev. Robert William Duncan, archbishop of the new­ly formed Anglican Church in North America; the Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, archbishop of the Church of Uganda; and the Rev. John Guernsey, bishop of the di­ocese to which the church be­longs, the Diocese of the Holy Spirit.

Orombi visited Montgomery in 2008 for the dedication of the church’s land. His presence this weekend is very special, said Vic Biebighauser, a member of the church’s vestry, or govern­ing body.

“It’s not an easy trip for him, so when we can get him here, we are very grateful,” Biebighaus­er said. Christchurch has had a years long missionary relation­ship with his country.

“I would describe (Orombi) as a lion of the faith,” Stuart said. “At least within Anglicanism, he is very influential and has been a great friend and a defend­er of the faith.”

Coordinating the schedules of so many dignitaries was the pri­mary reason the church waited until now to have the consecra­tion, van Dyke said.

The public is welcome to the services on Sunday, Biebig­hauser said, but expect a large crowd. The dedication is at 9:30 a.m., and the service begins at 10:30. There is a reception and a parish picnic directly after the services and the dedication.

Those who attend will have a chance to tour the new facili­ties, which reflect a harmonious blend of old world structure and contemporary comforts. For ex­ample, the sanctuary is in a cru­ciform shape, which dates to the Middle Ages.

Almost in the center of the sanctuary is the altar, which al­lows the congregation to fully participate in all aspects of com­munion. An 8-foot cross is sus­pended above the altar.

While the cruciform design is reminiscent of great European cathedrals, the church was spe­cifically constructed to incorpo­rate modern conveniences. A large screen is recessed into one of the ceiling beams and can be lowered remotely for visual pre­sentations. Despite the 40-foot vaulted ceilings, the acoustics are excellent, van Dyke said; a modern sound system allows ev­eryone to clearly hear what’s be­ing said.

Van Dyke points out the knee­lers — thickly padded blocks the worshippers use as they kneel in prayer. “These are hand-stitched, and they take an awful­ly long time to create,” he said.

Each is embroidered with one of seven gold crosses and the XP symbol, which is the ancient monogram of Christ, the Chi-Rho, on each side of the cross. They are stitched by volunteer members of the St. Clare Guild and take an average of one year to complete.

“In our liturgy, we do a lot of kneeling,” Biebighauser said. “Before we got here, we were in facilities that didn’t have them built in,” so they’re especially appreciated now.

Just outside the sanctuary, facing a peaceful courtyard with a fountain, the church has built in space for a columbarium, or a resting place for cremations.

A central hallway connects the sanctuary to Canterbury Hall, a parish hall that will ful­fill a multitude of functions. This weekend, the bright, open space will be set up for the dedi­cation, but it can be used for re­ceptions, Christian education, parish meetings and other gath­erings. Its vaulted ceiling sup­ports three large Gothic chande­liers; the focal point is the 18-foot window, above which hangs a recessed screen that can be lowered for audio-visual needs.

Along the central hallway are a nursery and children’s facili­ties. “It’s important for young families to have a good, clean, proper, up-to-date nursery,” van Dyke said.

A kitchen, serving area, ele­vators and restrooms complete the public areas on the first floor. The second floor includes a space for youth, with a raised stage and audio-visual setup as well as the youth minister’s of­fice. Also on this floor are a mul­tipurpose room, a small kitchen and dining room, the choir’s practice room and music direc­ tor’s office, plus additional classrooms and restrooms.

On the opposite side of the sanctuary is the former home of Dr. Frank Jackson, one of the founders of Jackson Hospital. The church decided to incorpo­ rate the home into the complex; it’s now used for parish offices. But it’s been remodeled, and its appearance conforms nicely to the rest of the buildings.

All this is a remarkable ac­complishment for a church that’s just a few years old.

The church formed a little more than five years ago after a majority of the members and many of the leaders of the Epis­copal Church of the Ascension split with the church to form a branch of the Anglican Church in America. An informative booklet on Christchurch ex­plains it broadly: They felt “the Episcopal Church had left its traditional scriptural values and beliefs and was moving rap­idly away from orthodox inter­pretations of holy scripture.”

The new church moved about for the next few months — a brief stay at Trinity Presbyteri­an Church was followed by a few months at St. James School. At the end of 2005, the church found a semi-permanent home at Dexter Avenue United Meth­odist Church and worshiped there until June of this year.

Now, they are finally home.

“It’s wonderful,” Stuart said. “It’s everything that I think ev­erybody envisioned when we started.”

And the facility is a true re­flection of the membership.

“This feels like us,” van Dyke said.

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