Domed Church Lifts Eyes, And Spirit, In Pasadena Congregation

New Sanctuary To Enhance Galilee's 'Worship Experience'

January 10, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

The domed walls curve upward, as if pulling the light high over the new sanctuary of the Galilee Lutheran Church.

Outside the Pasadenachurch, the Rev. R. L. Simmons stands watching as a crane hoists into place the sides of a new sanctuary, topped with a geodesic dome.

"As the eye follows the curving roof upward, it notices the glassed-in cupola, allowing sunlight into the sanctuary. This will remind the worshiper that God furnishes the light for him or her," says the pastor.

Simmons wasn't quoting The Spire, William Golding's darklybeautiful novel about a priest who learns a lesson of faith while adding a steeple to a cathedral, but his feelings about the new worshipspace and its 32-foot spire are similar.

"The top of the cupola is slanted, thus continuing to entice one's attention upward toward the steeple, and on up the spire, toward the sky, and the transcendent object of the worship experience," says Simmons.

The design combines the strength of interlocking triangles with the efficiency of a sphere, enclosing more volume with less material than any other geometric form, the minister explains. The dome is energy efficient and its aerodynamic shape gives it stability.

The 400-member church on Mountain Road has been waiting for a new place to hold worship services for about five years. Needing additional seating space, and wishing to convert the existing sanctuary into a fellowship hall, the congregation decided to order a pre-fabricated, geodesic domed church from a Michigan company.

The domed roof and walls arrived this week at the Mountain Road assembly on flatbed trucks.

Marvels Simmons, "Theydo all the erecting and everything. It takes less than eight days. It's amazing. When they came in here, there was just a concrete slab. Now it's almost done."

All this week, workers lifted wooden beams with insulation sandwiched between wood sheathing and dry-wall. A crane hoisted the walls and workers positioned them and bolted them to each other.

The pre-fab church from Geodesic Domes Inc. cost $70,000, but the entire building project, which includes remodeling two other wings of the church building, is costing about $400,000, Simmons says.

Church leaders were impressed with the design, Simmons says, which has an upward, open feeling and no interior posts to block the view.

"It's much more efficient for air circulation, plus there's a big feeling of openness because the roof structure holds itself up," says Simmons.

Two other Maryland churches, as well as a church in Delaware and one in Virginia, have chosen to construct the geodesicdomed sanctuaries.

The sanctuary, which will add 50 seats to the 23-year-old church's capacity, also can be expanded as necessary, Simmons says. The corner sections around the bottom of the dome can be extended in several years.

"As one looks at the structure, the eye will note immediately . . . the vertical lines of each panel, reminding the onlooker that the object of the worshipers is removed from them, is other than them, is transcendent," says Simmons.

After the dome is finished, a cupola will be placed on top, Simmons says. Windows on all sides of the cupola and fans will provide extra ventilation in hot weather.

The crowning touch will be the plastic white steeple, with red glass near its base and a three-foot cross on top. Workers are now putting on the gray, orange-flecked shingles, and the steeple will follow two weeks from now, Simmons says.

When the new sanctuary is finished, a leaded stained-glass window will be installed. The picture features a scene from the book of Revelation. Jesus as the lamb of God on the throne in heaven will be surrounded by a cloud, representing God the father, and a dove, representing the Holy Spirit. The window will contain a biblical verse about the scene.

Simmons and his family conceived the idea for the picture, and Shenandoah Glass Co. in Virginia designed the window.

"We sure are excited," says the pastor. "Now (the new sanctuary) is really shaping up, and everybody is so pleased. We consider it an asset to our worship spirit -- and a great glory to God."

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