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Building boom brings new churches, lobby areas

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Can a few more feet of lobby space change a parish community? That’s what several diocesan pastors are hoping. Churches including St. William of York in Stafford, St. John the Beloved in McLean and Church of the Nativity in Burke recently have completed lobby renovations. New narthexes for St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria and Holy Spirit Church in Annandale are in the works. Communities are hoping the changes are more than superficial.

“Our churches were really growing in the ’70s and ’80s and the architectural style of the period led to a narthex with a front door and an entry door — enough room to stop the cold air, and that’s really all that was going on,” said Andrew Shulman, director of the diocesan Office of Planning, Construction and Facilities. 

“These pastors have recognized that typical Catholics — they’re going to Mass, they're coming through that little tiny narthex and they’re leaving. It's just a space to walk through,” he said. “But if you put 60 feet between those two doors and have a place to pause, have a cup of coffee, interact with fellow parishioners, (visit) the Knights of the Columbus table — all these things are now happening in the narthex that used to just be a weather enclosure. It has absolutely changed the dynamic of the pre- and post-Mass experience.”

Nativity was one of the first parishes to renovate its narthex, and the change has been dramatic, visually and communally, said Shulman. “It’s white, it’s bright, high ceilings, lots of glass, a little place for a coffee stand, lots of tables around for different ministries,” he said. “What used to be just a weather enclosure has become a place of interaction, of repose, of community building.”

New lobbies also give a facelift to the church and make room for more amenities. St. Lawrence’s $2 million expanded narthex includes a cry room, bigger bathrooms, more storage, an updated baptistry, more Americans with Disabilities Act compliant confessionals, a center aisle entrance with a brighter, naturally lighted narthex, according to Deacon Michael A. Waters, who also serves as parish office manager. 

“(The renovation) is intended to make the church entrance more welcoming and reverential, to provide useful indoor gathering space in inclement weather and greater outdoor gathering space in nice weather,” he said. 

More than new narthexes are being built. According to the Office of Planning, Construction and Faculties, there are a total of 59 projects in the works or underway totaling $138 million. Though months or, in some cases, years from completion, St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, Corpus Christi Church in South Riding, St. Paul Church in Hague and St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg are in the midst of construction on new churches. St. Ambrose Church in Annandale is finalizing architectural plans for a new church, said Shulman. 

St. John Bosco Church in Woodstock recently renovated its church hall, restoring it to the look of the original structure built in the late 1800s. Among other projects, Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria plans to build a chapel for private prayer, baptisms and daily Mass. 

While those are some of the bigger church projects, all kinds of things are in the works, said Shulman. “There’s a lot of steel up in the air for the Diocese of Arlington.” 

Maraist can be reached at zoey.maraist@catholicherald.com or Twitter @zoeymaraistACH.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020