Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 15, 2005
A colorful place for two faiths

With its contemporary adobe-style architecture and vivid colors, the new St. Barnabas’ Center, located at 1784 N. Aaron Drive in Tooele, demands attention. The center, however, also deserves it, thanks to its unique dual occupancy and environmentally friendly design.

Built by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the $1.75 million building is shared between St. Barnabas’ Episcopal and Mountain of Faith Lutheran churches. The Episcopalians had outgrown their previous place of worship, a long and narrow, aging church built in 1967. They invited the Lutherans, who had held Sunday services at the Stansbury Park clubhouse for the past nine years, to join them at their new location. Both faiths believe that the new center will breathe new life into their congregations.

We knew that if we wanted to grow, we needed a larger building in a newer neighborhood,” Father Stan Ver Straten of St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church says.

“We always felt sort of lost in Stansbury,” says Pastor Steve Leiser of Mountain of Faith. “If you didn’t know where we were, you couldn’t find us. People know where we are now, and they come to see what we’re all about.”

It’s little wonder why the St. Barnabas’ Center piques one’s curiosity. The 10,000- square-foot building looks straight out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, rather than the Rocky Mountain West. Its cutting-edge Southwestern design combines strong lines with a curvaceous roof. The building’s bold silhouette is further enhanced by the exterior’s palette of rusty red, apricot and lime green-the latter of which adorns only the steeple, making the tallest part of the building even more prominent. The colors, say Father Ver Straten and Pastor Leiser, were chosen because of their liturgical characteristics — as well as their ability to make the center stand out.

“We’ve heard a lot about the color choices,” Cary Campbell, Director of Tooele City’s Planning and Zoning, admits.

“I wouldn’t really call them complaints, but we’ve definitely received a lot of comments.

“I think the building itself is rather unique — especially for this area. We’re happy to have it.”

The building’s design “was largely driven by the congregations’ desire for it to be energy efficient,” says Tom Buese of Buese Peters Architects. The Salt Lakebased firm focuses on environmentally friendly architecture, commonly referred to as “green building,” and is currently working on a third Episcopal Church in Utah, and medical offices and a private home in Stansbury Park.

“The St. Barnabas’ Center is not only beautiful,” points out Kenton Peters, the other half of Buese Peters Architects, “but it is also environmentally responsible.”

Energy efficient features include 12- inch-thick walls made of insulated concrete forms. The walls are not only incredibly strong, but also extremely heat-resistant, requiring less energy to heat and cool the building. Careful window placement and extended overhangs keep the sun out in the summer, yet allow it inside during the winter. That’s also when the sun’s rays penetrate an exposed concrete block wall located in the center’s main hall. The wall absorbs the heat and releases it when the room temperature drops. Additional “green” features include a drought-tolerant landscape that will feature only a small patch of lawn when it is complete, motion-sensor lighting and highly efficient fluorescent bulbs, and a white metal roof that better reflects the sun’s heat.

Fortunately, creating an environmentally conscious building did not mean having to sacrifice its aesthetic appeal. The building’s interior, for example, features an abundance of concrete, including exposed concrete columns and flooring in the worship area, foyer, and hallways. Yet the St. Barnabas’ Center is warm and welcoming. Its inviting nature is best felt in the worship area. Located in a separate wing, the worship area is entered through dramatic nine-foot-high wood and stained glass double doors.

Artist William Littig of Salt Lake-based William Littig Studios designed the doors and several stained-glass windows that are scattered throughout the building. Artful niches inside the worship area hold special items such as a cross and an offering plate, which sits next to the dangling rope that is connected to the bell tucked inside the steeple. Father Ver Straten gives the rope a light tug and the bell produces a glorious ring.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” he asks with a big smile spread across his face.

The pews were brought from the old Episcopal Church and reupholstered. The intricately carved podium dates back to 1917.

On the wall behind the podium is a wooden cross set into raised concrete blocks in alternating tones of off white and soft peach. The dramatic design nearly climbs the entire wall from floor to ceiling.

The worship area’s eastern wall is crafted of frosted glass panels. Outside, a metal cross spans the height and width of the wall. A similar but much smaller cross, crafted by Pat Raymond, a Mountain of Faith member, and his friends, stands atop the steeple. Additional windows outline the top of the western wall, creating a bright and open, yet reverent space.

“We hope the facility will bring more people in and enhance their worship experience,” Father Ver Straten says.

So far it seems to be working. Since the center opened its doors in early February, both congregations report an increase in attendance — and they hope it keeps climbing.

If the congregations eventually outgrow their new home, no problem.

The building was designed so that most of its exterior walls basically “pop out of place” so that the current structure can easily expand without a lot of work and high construction costs.

The center’s thoughtful floor plan, which took about one year to design and another year to build, also includes a spacious atrium with an adjoining kitchen, classrooms and administrative offices.

The local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous meets there five days a week, and Father Ver Straten is currently talking with other community organizations, including Easter Seals, that also are interested in using the center.

“We want this facility to be much more than just a home for two congregations,” says Father Ver Straten, who was who was involved in the planning process from start to finish. “We want the St. Barnabas’ Center to become a community center for well-being.

A place where people can come and focus on what’s important in their lives.”

During its short existence, the St. Barnabas’ Center has already accomplished three things: It is a good steward of the land; its design demonstrates the power of imagination; and it shows, through its Episcopalian and Lutheran members, the ability to work together despite having differences.

The St. Barnabas’ Center will be formally dedicated Sunday, April 3, 2005, at 10 a.m. A joint service will follow the dedication.

There will also be an open house on Saturday, June 11, 2005. The community is welcome. St. Barnabas’ Center 1784 N. Aaron Drive, Tooele.

For more information, please call 882-4721 or 882-7291.

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