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Drawing on a Church's Vision


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The Downtown Church in Springfield is where Christ and the community intersect. Six architecture students from Drury University have
designed a 25-year plan for the church around that idea. 

“The vision statement of the church guided everything we did,” said Dr. Sara Khorshidifard, assistant professor of architecture and director of community studies for Drury University. 

The students, who will be graduating next year, took a comprehensive look at the community around the church and the church’s facilities and came up with short and long-term plans for the church to consider. In addition, it was interesting for the church’s leadership to hear from a perspective from a generation largely absent from churches. 

“None of us are Methodist. It was interesting for us to look at the facility’s potential to bring people in,” said student Jillian Kirchner. “We need to help people get out of their boxes – inside and outside the church.”

Many churches bemoan their downtown locations for lacking adequate parking. The Downtown Church has a lot of parking, but the students didn’t see that as an asset. 

“You have a lot of pavement but not much greenspace,” they reported. “Having so much of your property dedicated to parking gives it a harsh look.” 
The team considered the history of the church, coupled with the current state of its neighborhood, which has been going through an urban renewal/revitalization in the past several years. The team began working on the project on August 29 and presented their finding on October 24. 
“None of us even knew a church was here,” Kirchner said. “I hope our ideas can come to fruition over time. This triggered a shift in our thinking. We started considering how a church could be more than just a place people go on Sunday mornings. It could be a place where people meet together through the week and connect to something bigger than themselves.”

The church has recently been in a time of discernment around what to do with their parsonage, a historic building on their church grounds that is prominent on the street but in need of repairs. After considering tearing it down, they decided to preserve it. The architecture team sees this house as an opportunity to provide the community with a soft introduction to the church. 

For example, a welcome center in the church could sell fresh produce, which is not currently available in the immediate neighborhood. In addition, this area could feature displays that highlight the history and the church’s current mission. 

“Letting people see in and the light shine out could make this a real beacon for the community,” student TJ Lolling said.
The team would like to see an interactive sculpture and seating arranged circularly on the front lawn. In addition, the parsonage garage could be removed to make room for an outdoor play area. 

The team also recommended taking out 12 parking spots to make more room for green space. The church would still have 51 parking spots remaining. 

Wade Shelton said eliminating parking spaces is a challenge for him, but when he considers how far people have to park from the door at large
churches in town, like the James River Church, he thinks parking on the street near the church will be closer than that.

Rev. Lori Lampert, the pastor of The Downtown Church, was impressed by the students creativity. 

“I want to commend you. A garden on top of Queen City is a brilliant use of space,” said Rev. Lori Lampert, pastor of The Downtown Church. “This helps us have an open conversation about what it means to meet the needs of our community.” 

The teacher was supervising two other projects at the same time. One was visioning a future housing option for the homeless with the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. The other was doing historical and archival research on a neighborhood. 
“It was exciting to consider what we could do for downtown Springfield to make this church more valuable to its community,” said student Sophia Torres.