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    Quarterly Unstuck Church Report

by Mel McGowan

I recently had the opportunity to get married in a space that Visioneering Studios designed and to experience firsthand the power of our mission statement of creating “destinations that lift the spirit…now and forever.”

It opened my eyes to the power of a place that facilitates a cross shaped horizontal and vertical connection at the same time. From the Garden of Eden to the City of Heaven, God has been doing this: connecting people with each other (horizontal), as well as connecting people with Himself and His Creation (vertical).

When we started designing churches, it seemed like the order of the day was black-box “multi-useless gymnatoriums” that were all about getting butts in and out of their seats as quickly as possible. The (usually) unspoken 11th Commandment was “Get ‘er done!”

After all, every dollar spent on sacred space was a dollar that could have been used to feed a homeless person or dig a well providing clean water. As my friend Pete Wilson (Crosspoint Church) just said when we spoke together at Q-Nashville,

“We have to find the balance between space mattering too much and not enough.”

I have found that you don’t need to be opulent to be intentional in designing and building space to share in the storytelling of His people and His place. 

The previous worship center of Mariners Church looked like a concrete bunker. It faithfully followed the tenets of the “seeker sensitive/non-offensive auditorium.” As an undergraduate, I went to the University of California across the street and never knew it was there. I thought it was just another tilt-up concrete office park or corporate campus.

Our Visioneering Studios master plan for the expanded site started by analyzing and appreciating God’s handiwork on these beautiful coastal foothills at the edge of Newport Beach, as well as the Mediterranean climate which only 3% of the world shares (and which Jesus was smart enough to use for His earthly ministry). In the spaces between the buildings, we celebrated the local ecologies, from an urbane Global Café terrace, to a suburban “village green” park, to coastal “hang” zones inspired by favored surf spots, to the ocean surface itself, in the form of wave colored rubber fall zone surfaces in the shipwreck themed outdoor play zone.

The majority of the architecture is “background noise” with tilt concrete panels, glass, aluminum composite panels, and coastal stone veneer. The architecture of the Student Center, while clean and modern, references a nautical boathouse, while the Mariners Chapel evokes an Arts & Crafts California coastal chapel made of native redwood and glass. Shared materials across divergent structures provide continuity, although the focus remains on the outdoor elements: a reflecting pond, a quiet stream, an outdoor baptismal pool, an olive “grove” bosque for quiet meditation, and an “Ebenezer” of stacked stones commemorating the story of the congregation and their tribal journey.

This church is a “both/and” kind of place. They are multi-site and multi-venue. They have an incarnational presence in the inner city with their 4 Lighthouse Community Centers. They simultaneously host the Catalyst conference with circus acts, rock stars, and comedians, while providing timeless quiet meditative spaces in and between buildings.

Oh, and if you’re curious about the wedding pics, here you go: http://www.justplainhonest.com/orange-county-wedding-photographers-mel-lori-mariners-church/

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Click here to download Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space, a FREE eBook by Mel McGowan.

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This is a sponsored post from Visioneering Studios, one of our Strategic Partners at TonyMorganLive.com.

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