A new church can often serve as a spiritual resurgence for parishioners, as well as a  recommitment to not only their own faith lives but also to the parish in which they belong.

After a drought of no new church construction, the Diocese of Baton Rouge is experiencing a renaissance this spring with two new buildings coming online. The first was March 26 when Bishop Robert W. Muench blessed a palatial new house of worship at St. George in Baton Rouge.

Next month St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary is scheduled to swing open the doors to a new building. 

Long before the veil is lifted on a new building, however, an enormous amount of work behind the scenes is required, including years of planning and the always arduous task of fundraising.

Naturally, church designs vary dependent on the creativity of the architect and the whim of what is normally a building committee overseeing the project for the church parish.

St. George and St. John are both what is considered the more traditional cruciform design, meaning the structure is in the shape of a cross.  Some might suggest this particular design is experiencing a rebirth of its own, after going through several decades of new churches becoming more circular in shape. This style was often seen in church parishes during suburban sprawl in the mid and late 20th century.

When it comes to designing the interior, the Vatican has a number of guidelines and suggestions to secure the sacredness of the building.

Naturally, at the heart of any church is the altar, with the Vatican II guidelines referring to the eucharistic feast as a “sacred meal.” Thus, the altar design must carry a dual symbolism, that of a dining table and place of sacrifice.  According to the Vatican II guidelines, the altar must be “simple and unpretentious,” allowing the celebrant to face the congregation as he celebrates the Mass.

Microphones and speakers, as per manent fixtures, are not allowed on the altar.

Because the lectern, or ambo, is a place where God’s word is proclaimed, it should not be used by prayer leaders, commentators, choir conductors or for announcement of any other events. Additionally, the guidelines suggest it should be constructed in the same material as the altar.

Great care should also be given when arranging the seating for the faithful. This was wonderfully accomplished with the installation of unique circular pews at St. George, creating a sense of fellowship during the Mass.

Overall, the norms should be applied with ingenuity and adapted to the characteristics of particular churches, according to the Vatican II guidelines. Most importantly, the church should be designed to give worshippers a sense of spirituality, a desire for inner refinement, leaving them to serve God in their daily lives.