Construction is underway for a project that will open a new chapter for a local Winter Park church.
First Church of Christ, Scientist — a building that was razed in March 2018 and now being rebuilt — once again will stand at its location at 650 N. New York Ave. The redevelopment project marks an effort by the congregation to create a space that better suits its needs — reimagining a church that was built back in 1958.
Members of the church can expect a single 7,000-square-foot building that includes a new sanctuary, lobby area, Sunday school area, offices and 44 parking spaces. It’s a move that brings the components of the church closer together.
The project also makes room for 16 townhomes on 1.43 acres at the north end of the property, which was sold by the church to Condev Land LLC for development. The transaction leaves room for a new church building set for the remaining 0.93 acres.
“The impetus for the whole process really was to provide a more functional building for the congregation,” incoming church executive board member and celebration committee chair Rob Landry said. “There was a lot of discussion in preparation for the design, so we provided a lot of information to the architects about how we wanted to use the spaces and the different qualities we wanted the spaces to express.”
The new church will include seating in the sanctuary that curves around the reading platform. That makes the space feel more intimate, Landry said, and the fact that the seats are movable will make the sanctuary a more flexible space for different events.
“We do have flexibility to rearrange the chairs and put tables out if we want to have other kinds of functions in there or add chairs as we need to,” Landry said.
Not only will the new building have a new layout, but also it will have a new look. Renderings of the new church show an updated architectural style — the architects refer to it as “transitional” because it sits between traditional and contemporary, Landry said.
“It was contemporary in a way that still had some traditional aspects to it,” he said. “When you look at it, you think, ‘Oh, it is a church,’ but it doesn’t look like a traditional church.”
The original 1958 cornerstone of the original church was also salvaged and will be placed on top of the new cornerstone during the construction process, Landry said. A ceremony will be held by the congregation to consecrate the building when that happens.
“I think it’s both a recognition of the building process but also a reference to the spiritual foundations of the church,” he said.
It’s been a period of transition for the First Church of Christ, Scientist in the meantime, which has been holding services at Orange Technical College while construction is completed.
Landry said the church is grateful for the college letting it use the space.
“It’s worked really well — they’ve been very supportive of us being there,” Landry said. “The space is smaller than what our new space will be, so it’s been a little challenging — especially around the holidays and so forth when we’ve had high attendance — but it has worked out pretty well.
“What’s important is the message, not the space that we’re in,” he said. “That’s an idea that we’ve been working with a lot. The church is not the building. The church is the work you’re doing.”
The members of First Church of Christ, Scientist can’t wait to see the new facility.
“Ultimately, it’s providing for the longevity of the congregation and the work we’re doing,” he said of the new home. “That’s the goal: to have the church be healthy and long-lasting.”
Construction should be finished by the end of the summer, with the church opening shortly after, Landry said.