Having more than doubled its membership in ten years, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan. decided it was time to expand its building. In 2011, Chapel Hill hired Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture to turn its vision into reality. Today, the church stands at more than twice its original size, growing from 21,000 square feet to just over 50,000 square feet. With exterior claddings matching the existing building and style, the addition is seamless.
The original building consisted of a large multipurpose room capable of seating 300 that was used for worship, fellowship and children's activities. Visitors now enter a fellowship hall, previously the multipurpose space, before moving into the new formal sanctuary accommodating 850 seats on a variety of sloped and tiered seating areas. Natural light from the light tower centered above the stage fills the space while one's eye is quickly drawn to three large, magnificent stained glass windows portraying the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The large, voluminous worship space is rich, with warm laminated wood trusses, wood deck, native Kansas limestone, wood paneling and a soft earth-toned color palette. Integrated into the composition of wood paneling and stained glass are two large projection screens that lend themselves to a multimedia worship experience.
Unique to the sanctuary is the horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement surrounding the stage. The stage thrusts into the audience, enabling the pastor to engage the congregation. The stage also accommodates a choir twice the size of the original, along with a praise band. The seating arrangement is a response to the worship style the church embraced in its original multi-purpose room and became the impetus for the sanctuary design. Previously, moveable seating was organized into two halves, each side facing the other, with the pastor preaching from the center. While this arrangement entwined the sense of community that wove the church together, some found the seating arrangement intimidating for worship service. The new sanctuary features a variety of seating options, enabling the church member to choose his or her position to provide the most comfortable worship experience.
Expansion (Chapel Hill United Methodist Church)
Project Size: 801-2000 seats
Completion Date: April 1, 2014
To meet the unique seating design requirements for this project, Clarity auditorium seating by Sauder Worship Seating was chosen. Clarity offered the flexibility needed to accommodate the tight radius layout of the seats. The company provided layout assistance and was able to adjust the product during installation for a precise fit. The product also offered additional features the church desired, including lift-up arms, custom lighting and wood aisle panels that coordinated with other materials used throughout the sanctuary.
Positioned on top of the hill, the church rises to the sky and serves as a beacon to the surrounding community. "We have often said the shoe should not determine how big the foot should be," says Chapel Hill United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Jeff Gannon. "We are grateful for what God has provided and all that went into the new facility and the way that it will help us meet our outreach and mission of welcoming all people to experience and share the extraordinary grace and love of Jesus Christ."