Holy Family Episcopal Church in Fishers, Indiana, a white-sided, steepled church with a signature Episcopal red door, recently underwent a renovation of nearly the entire church. “Aspen touched everything from the sanctuary doors back. Everything is new or reconditioned,” says Father Mike Galvin, Rector at Holy Family.
The project signifies the congregation’s commitment to reach into the community and make the church a welcoming place for all.
“Holy Family was constructed a certain way to meet ministry needs at the time it was originally built,” says Galvin. “Our needs have changed, and we’ve outgrown the space. Our mission is different than when the building was first built. We’re outward focused and need to evangelize. We want to reach into the community and provide space for people in the area to use our church.”
Before embarking on the building project, Holy Family commissioned TAG to conduct a parish-wide survey. With a 90 percent participation rate, the church leadership knew they had the support of the congregation to move forward with a building project.
Ministry Space for the Common Good
Initially, the driving force was to add a parish hall—a place other than the sanctuary where the congregation could gather and host large group events for outside organizations.
Food is a big focus for a lot of their events, and the little kitchen they had been using was totally inadequate for their needs. Though they wished they could have installed a bigger commercial kitchen, the church opted to install a warming kitchen—a more economical solution that allows them to still serve catered meals from a fully functional space.
“Two big opportunities we have locally are in feeding ministries,” says Galvin. “We work hand in hand with another area church, and now we’re looking to perhaps take another night and provide a feeding ministry here.” The new parish hall also provides space for the church to assemble backpacks with school supplies for kids during their annual back-to-school drive, and other locally-focused opportunities throughout the year.
Because it would serve as a multipurpose space, Aspen’s design team recommended installing movable walls in the parish hall to allow for flexible use of the space. “The movable walls were a little pricey but we’re really glad we included them,” says Galvin. “They were exactly what we needed.”
From the start, Holy Family desired to create ministry space that they could open up to the community for other uses. The local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops now meet at Holy Family, as well as other community groups and organizations.
Along with changes to the inside of the building, Holy Family also added a basketball hoop outdoors. Situated in a residential neighborhood, even this simple amenity has begun to draw neighbor kids to the church property. So has their outdoor community garden. For $10 a year to cover the cost of water, up to 60 people can reserve a 10×20 plot. This simple use of their grounds serves as another meaningful way to draw non-members to the church.
Beyond the Parish Hall
Galvin says he could envision what the new parish hall would look like before it was built, but what he couldn’t envision was what might happen with the space between the parish hall and the sanctuary.
“We talked about repurposing that space, but for me, it was hard to envision this,” he says. “In my mind’s eye, it was nothing more than paint and carpet. It didn’t turn out that way at all. Repurposing and rehabbing the existing space—the classrooms, the narthex, the offices—has been a delight for everyone.”
Previously, the church’s main doors led into a small narthex surrounded by the church’s offices. Nobody lingered before or after services. They simply brushed their feet off and shuffled into the sanctuary for Sunday services.
“We knew we wanted to update the narthex to serve as a focal point for the church—a main entry point and a key gathering space,” says Dona Schnelle-Loftus, Aspen Group’s interior designer for the Holy Family project. “We advised the church to spend more dollars in this space than elsewhere in the building because getting this space right would make the biggest ministry impact.”
“Now that we have a coffee bar in the narthex, and we’ve moved our offices to the far end of the church, Sunday worshipers are able to linger in smaller spaces where people can gather and share,” says Galvin.
The Power of Connecting Space
The new lobby space has caused people to stick around in between services, and many have started attending Sunday school as a result of connecting on a deeper level at the church. Galvin says they’ve seen an uptick in the number of adults and children who are participating in Christian formation classes in between their two Sunday worship services, and he anticipates these numbers to keep growing.
Though they had adult classes in the past, they only had space for one class at a time. People would drop off their kids and head to Starbucks. Now, with the addition of the parish hall and refurbished classroom space, Holy Family is able to offer more Sunday school programming for kids and adults.
One way churches can strategically invest in aesthetically pleasing design features is by spending money on “splashes” of cost in strategic areas versus spending uniformly throughout a whole space. At Holy Family, for instance, the original narthex featured a vaulted, wood-lined recess in the center of the ceiling. “No one ever noticed this feature in the past,” says Schnelle-Loftus. Now, though, the lobby with its unique ceiling design has become a visual focal point in that space.
Church administrative offices also were moved out of the lobby to the far end of the church, near a secondary entrance. Relocating the offices provided a way to add more square footage for the main lobby.
During the construction phase, Galvin says they were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep working at the church. “We were prepared to move out and work from home,” he says. “Terry Brown, Aspen’s senior project manager for Holy Family, has been able to stage us in a way that’s minimized disruptions and made it possible for us to stay in our space.”
Since renovating their church, Holy Family has seen a boost in membership, especially with young families. “We have 60-70 new members of the congregation since the beginning of the year,” says Galvin. “With new space, we may be able to attract more people to the church throughout the week, which gives us opportunities to build into their lives beyond Sunday.”
Category: Renovations, New Additions
“With new space, we may be able to attract more people to the church throughout the week, which gives us opportunities to build into their lives beyond Sunday.”
– Father Mike Galvin, Rector at Holy Family Episcopal Church, Fishers, IN