Posts Tagged ‘Worship & Culture’

Foundations! First Baptist Church of Jonesboro


Editor’s note: The following article appears in the May 2016 issue of Religious Product News.

First Baptist Church of Jonesboro has enjoyed much success at its greater Atlanta-area campus. In 2001, the church began upgrading its facilities, starting by adding a Recreation Outreach Center, called The ROC, as a ministry for youth.

In 2010, the church took on a major renovation of its 57,500-square-foot worship center. The next step was to renovate and expand its existing three-story children’s building.

Corner of Balcony w Graphics

Church leadership called on CDH Partners from Marietta, Georgia, the architects they had used for its previous projects, to help streamline their plans.

During previous renovations, the church had moved its fellowship hall from the first floor of the 30,000-square-foot children’s building to its old gymnasium, which opened a large amount of space. The building also had a drive-under portion that architects posed closing to add even more space.


The renovated first floor would provide a secure entrance to the Children’s Center, as well as lead to the sanctuary. This floor would include classrooms and playrooms for toddlers and pre-K students. The second floor would have classrooms for younger elementary students. And the third floor would have classrooms for older elementary students. Please continue reading.

Why the Church and Consultant Relationship is Key to a Successful Facility

Editor’s note: This article recently appeared in the April/May 2016 of Worship Facilities and describes the importance of maintaining strong relationships during every phase of the planning process.

Last year, Worship Facilities conducted a survey of church leaders who’d completed a construction project within the prior three years. Here is an in-depth look at one crucial finding — the importance of consultant selection.

Last year, Worship Facilities conducted a survey of church leaders who’d completed a construction project within the prior three years. One of the points we learned from their responses was how important it is to select a consultant (architect, design build firm, etc.), who’ll be a great fit.

One respondent stated they would do “better research and vet a design-build firm and insist on 3D computer modeling to check for plan fit.”

Another participant recommended churches, “select designers with a passion for the project and that will listen to the church. The lowest fee is not saving money in this case.”

When you embark on a new building or extensive remodeling project, you’ll spend a lot of time with the architectural and/or building firms you hire. This is the team of experts you’ll rely on to turn your vision into reality.

Since this relationship needs to be collaborative, we interviewed architects who’ve worked with churches to hear their perspective. We wanted to hear their recommendations for selecting a vendor and establishing a great relationship between church leadership and architect.

Here’s what we learned:

Tip #1: Look for a firm with experience working with church leaders

One church leader who responded to our survey recommended “Be patient and don’t rush into any one firm until you’ve been able to evaluate several contractors and visit sites they’ve completed and talk with staff to verify how their project went.”

David Strickland, Principal with CDH Partners recommends church leaders, “Select a good, experienced team who has worked with churches. If an architect or builder isn’t familiar with churches, you’ll have to spend time educating them on requirements and logistics that are specific to a church. If they have experience working with churches, it’ll make the project run much smoother and will establish a high level of confidence between groups (builder, architect and church).”
Please click here to continuing reading.

Getting Ready to Lay the Foundation at Friendship!


Work is well underway at the construction site for historic Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta. This new location on Walnut Street is adjacent to Morris Brown College and about four blocks from the church’s original location.


CDH Partners Project Manager Carine Kroko and firm Principal David Strickland were on site for a meeting and site tour with the Van Winkle construction team.


The site will take shape quickly once the drainage is in. Plans call for this new campus to be completed in the spring of 2017.

Morningside Baptist highlighted in Religious Product News


(Editor’s note: The following article recently appeared in Religious Product News Magazine)

Morningside Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, had always believed that providing a fulfilling church life experience for the entire family was the key ingredient in growing a strong church. When the church needed to expand its facilities to accommodate growing membership, it made sense to reinvest in its ministry programs.

Church leadership organized a Long Range Planning Committee and hired architects, engineers and interior designers from CDH Partners based in Marietta, Georgia, to design a master plan that would address the church’s present ministry needs as well as provide a plan for future expansion as membership continued to grow. The plan would be phased, with the first phase addressing the most pressing desires.

Morningside is a traditional-style, red brick church. The campus consisted of a large sanctuary building, fellowship hall, and a cluster of classroom buildings linked together by walkways. The ministry programs, however, were physically disconnected, scattered among several buildings on campus. This was a primary concern for church leadership, which wanted to tie together the programs together in one building to form a Children’s Ministry Center.

Adult ministry space would also need updating and renovating and, ideally, would connect in some way to the new Children’s Ministry Center.

As part of the planning process, focus groups were organized to help identify areas that could be improved.  A recurring theme that came out of the focus group meetings was the need for more space for preschool, children and pre-teens to worship and express their creativity.


In response, CDH Partners designed a 39,000-square-foot, two-story building that would be situated behind the current sanctuary. Click here to continue reading.

You can also view the digital online version of this magazine. Click here and turn to page 12.

Roopville FBC featured in Worship Facilities Magazine

NightshotWebCDH Principal and Director of the Worship Studio David Strickland was recently interviewed for an article published in the 2015 September/October issue of Worship Facilities Magazine. In the article, he talks about one of CDH’s latest projects, Roopville First Baptist Church located in Carrolton, Georgia.

The church, which was founded in 1978, is located in a small rural community. For many years, it enjoyed success in a modest 40 by 90 foot two-story red brick building. Then the community surrounding the church began to grow fast and church leaders knew they had to act quickly or risk seeing a reduction in attendance and worship involvement.

You can read the outcome of the Roopville First Baptist project by clicking here and viewing the full on-line magazine. (Please turn to pages 34-36.)  Or click here to read the shorter web version of this article.

Friendship Baptist — A Step Closer

It is the beginning of a new chapter of the life of historical Friendship Baptist Church, and CDH Partners will join in on the next part of the story. The Marietta firm was selected as the design firm for the project, which includes the construction of a new sanctuary, chapel, educational space, and fellowship hall. Over the last few weeks demolition began on the what will become the new site for the church.


The church’s building committee recently unveiled plans for the new church campus that will be located on property once owned by Interdenominational Theological Center. Plans call for the new church to be completed in April 2017, which is the church’s 155th anniversary. The new 44,000 square foot church will contain state-of-the-art technology, and a sanctuary that will seat 500 people. The flexible Fellowship Hall will contain a stage and room for over 450 people, while a smaller chapel will seat 200.


Friendship Baptist was displaced when the Atlanta Falcons began to acquire property for a new stadium. Twenty-five former slaves established the church in 1862. It was independently organized in 1866 and became the first African American Baptist church in Atlanta. In the beginning, church services were held in a donated railroad boxcar given to Friendship Baptist by a church in Ohio. It was used for church services on Sunday and as a classroom for youth during the week

The church’s congregation grew quickly and moved to the corner of Haynes and Markham Streets. It relocated to Northside Drive and later to Mitchell Street before selling its property in 2014 to the Atlanta Falcons. Both Spelman and Morehouse Colleges began in the basement of this church. These schools became a part of the larger Atlanta University. The church is also the “Mother” church to nine other African American Baptist congregations.

04 16 15 Exterior Final Rendering with logo

Many elements of the historical Friendship Church building have been preserved and will be incorporated into the new building. Stained glass windows will be reused along with the church’s original bell and pipe organ.

CDH Partners is consistently one of the top 25 architectural firms in Georgia. It was founded in 1977 and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the most progressive architectural firms in the state of Georgia and the southeast.


St. John Neumann Wins NCPD Award


The National Catholic Partnership on Disability in partnership with Loyola Press recently announced that St. John Neumann Catholic Church is the 2014 winner of the Loyola Press Parish Award.

Judges noted that St. John Neumann Parish has gone above and beyond to make their sacred space accessible to everyone, who worships there. They also stated, “The sacred space maintains its beauty and purpose while being accessible to all and allow for person with physical disabilities to worship and to minister at the parish. “Being sensitive to the needs of others is not a separate space or program; it is an organic part of the church and its community.”

Executive Director of NCPD Janice Benton says, “The parish of St. John Neumann has truly spared no effort to make their church accessible to the last detail. They have done this in an effort to ensure this today, and also for the future. This means that priests and parishioners will have access and continue their ministry at the altar.”

CDH Partners created a master plan that made sure the physical features of the church embodied a spirit of inclusion. The plan called for the construction of new 850-seat sanctuary along with the addition of classrooms and storage space. There was a conscience effort by the design team to move those who stepped into the worship center from “secular to sacred.”

Natural finishes create a sense of warmth, worship, and welcome. Parish doors are equipped with pulls so those in wheelchairs can easily navigate through the building. The main entrances have automatic door openers. The reading desk in the ambo along with the altar has been adjusted in height. An 80 by 120-foot plaza connects the existing church building to the new sanctuary. A principle feature of this church is the life-size baptismal font located in the front of the narthex. The church’s main aisle is elongated and contains light fixtures that provide beams of warm light on either side of the nave and the narthex. The tile pattern of the floor is used to connect the nave to sanctuary.

Designing for those who are physically challenged from CDH Partners on Vimeo.

Why we must continue to change

by Bill Chegwidden FAIA, founding principal and president CDH Partners


Forty years ago, I remember being in a worship service where the pastor spoke with a missionary by telephone, who was living on the other side of the world. The conversation was broadcast live and everyone in attendance was amazed by what they heard.

If that same missionary was with us today, he or she would have even more of an opportunity to engage an audience and to become an integral part of the service. Digital technology creates an atmosphere where individuals on the other side of the city, state, country, or world can appear to be on stage in front of us. But the technology doesn’t stop here. It goes far beyond this to a point where a church can become a central point of focus within a community by using various forms of media and communication. It all begins when church leaders ask a very important question: How do we connect the needs of our congregation in today’s evolving digital world? 

For years, churches have looked for effective ways to bridge this growing gap by having a traditional and non-traditional worship services but change has always been hard. Just a few years ago, architects designed churches and worship centers with long narrow hallways, large classrooms, and very few gathering spaces. We’ve moved away from this because we realize that people crave community. They want to worship in churches that provide areas and spaces that encourage interaction and engagement. And they want these areas to be places that are welcoming, bright, and warm. Some contain fireplaces, coffee bars, Wi-Fi, and an atmosphere that is engaging and builds community. They are places where people connect with others. To continue reading this article, please click here.




Best religious structure – First United Methodist Orlando

First United Methodist Church located in Orlando, Florida, was recently awarded the 2013 Design Award for Best Religious Structure for Precast Concrete. The church has been located in the city’s downtown area for over 100 years. Judges for the competition said, “This project was selected because of the unique pattern in the precast concrete and because most of its LEED Silver points came from the precast panels due to their durability, energy efficiency, and the lifecycle precast adds to a facility.”

02/2012-First United Methoodist Church Orlando, Fl.

CDH architects and interior designers created a modern addition to complement this traditional-styled sanctuary. In April 2012, the spacious fellowship hall was completed. It contains an 82,000 square foot contemporary worship center with a seating capacity of 350. Also included in the design is a 125-seat chapel that contains a parlor, bride’s suite, music suite, adult and children’s classrooms, nurseries, and an administrative suite. Designers placed the parking area beneath the new addition to help with its sustainability while reducing the overall footprint of the project.

02/2012-First United Methoodist Church Orlando, Fl.

The fellowship hall was designed to be spacious containing areas where people can meet and gather. It also contains an upscale café and a full service kitchen. An oversized sculpture resembling Stonehenge creates an imaginative divider between the fellowship hall, kitchen, and information desk. It also serves as a recreation destination for children, who play on its painted metal towers.

A custom 16-foot light fixture hangs in the center of the fellowship hall and is highly visible through glass exterior walls, which form a three-story atrium and serves as a signature feature to the new ministry center. At night this striking feature becomes a luminary for the city of Orlando. This structure is LEED Silver certified. Energy costs were reduced by almost 18 percent through lighting selection, e–glass windows, high efficiency solutions for HVAC, high efficiency water reduction fixtures, and energy-star appliances.

To read more about this structure and its place in the 2013 Design Awards, please click here.

Old Buildings – Modern Masterpieces

02/2012-First United Methoodist Church Orlando, Fl.

Editor’s note: Here’s more info on First United Methodist Orlando, which recently received a LEED Silver Certification. It was a CDH Partner’s project. This article was originally published in Religious Product News.)

by Jennifer Walker-Journey

Can an old church building become a modern-day masterpiece?

It was a daunting question posed by leadership of First United Methodist Church of Orlando, an organization with a history dating back to the 1840s. Over the years, the church’s identity had become associated with its sanctuary, which was built in 1982 with a beautiful tower rising 163 feet above its base. The tower culminated in a massive gold-covered cross measuring 12.75 feet high and 5.5 feet wide, and it was so noteworthy in that it is listed as a must-see in the “Tours of Orlando.”

As the sanctuary neared its 50th anniversary, church leadership realized that in order to stay a viable force in downtown Orlando, it had to revamp its physical self to better appeal to the young and young-at-heart. And that, ideally, meant turning the traditional church campus into a more contemporary one, one that fell in step with a more progressive downtown community?

02/2012-First United Methoodist Church Orlando, Fl.

It was a notion architects with CDH Partners didn’t dismiss. The firm has vast experience in master planning with a focus on church design. It also emphasized LEED certification in many of its projects. If anyone could find a way to merge the church’s “old world” charm with modern features, this was the team to do it.

“The decision to design a contemporary structure was a bold move for the church, departing from the traditional structure of the existing worship center,” said Timothy J. Black, AIA, LEED AP and project architect with CDH Partners. “A contemporary addition best articulated the church’s desire to communicate its relevance both architecturally and contextually with the changing community.” Continue Reading


A New Beginning for St. Elmo UMC

by Jim Kumorek

(The following article was published in Worship Facilities Magazine, February 2013. St. Elmo’s United Methodist Church, a CDH Partner’s Inc. project, received a 2012 Solomon Award for Church Architecture.) 

August 23, 2009, is a date the congregation of St. Elmo United Methodist Church (UMC) will not soon forget. This was the day when their facility was ravaged by a fire believed to have started with the structure’s original knob-and-tube wiring, according to Michael White, project manager for the Strauss Co. in Chattanooga, Tenn., retained to rebuild the facility following designs from architectural firm CDH Partners based in Marietta, Ga.

“The loss we experienced was tremendous,” comments Rev. Dr. Mark Dowell, pastor of St. Elmo, in an interview conducted by CDH Partners. “It’s hard to put into words. It was a loss of a place we loved.”

Through the generosity and support of other churches in the community, St. Elmo was able to continue its church services in other venues throughout the three-year process of rebuilding. This enabled the church building committee to take the time necessary to evaluate its options and make wise decisions on how to proceed. Please continue reading

Sustainable by Design

This article was originally published in Church Executive Magazine. Timothy J. Black, AIA, LEED AP, is an architect with CDH Partners Inc., Atlanta, GA. The First United Methodist Church of Orlando has achieved LEED Silver Certification. 

02/2012-First United Methoodist Church Orlando, Fl.

How good stewardship means going green for one church.

First United Methodist Church of Orlando, FL, has remained a significant presence in the city of Orlando since circuit riders ministered here in the 1840s. In 1962 the church’s current sanctuary was constructed in the heart of downtown Orlando. Nine years later a fellowship hall was built, and in 1988 a three-story building across the street was purchased and renovated for church offices, youth activities, some classrooms and a fellowship hall. Please continue reading  . . . .

CDH Master Plan Makes A Huge Difference for Cincinnati Church

The following editorial was published in Worship Facilities Magazine March 19,2011—


On Jan. 9, 2011, Horizon Community Church in Cincinnati celebrated the opening of Phase I of its new campus. After purchasing a 160-acre golf course alongside the Little Miami River in Cincinnati, Horizon Community worked with CDH Partners of Marietta, Ga., to master plan the site as the church’s new campus.

The campus development plan is phased to meet the needs of the congregation as it grows to capacity for each phase of development. An objective for church leadership was to preserve the beauty of the site and orient the campus to take full advantage of the views across the pristine landscape. Reportedly designed with sustainability in mind, the building will conserve energy through the use of energy-efficient HVAC equipment. In addition, the first phase is a traditional French Country design and establishes the foundation for future development.

Phase I includes many outdoor features that help distinguish the campus, such as a 3.5-acre pond with 10,000 square feet of terraces. CDH’s design made use of natural stone and brick on the exterior, creating an Old-World feel to the buildings as one approaches. Focal to the newly completed 65,000-square-foot building, according to CDH’s president, Bill Chegwidden, is a 400-seat chapel, which serves as the initial worship space for the new campus. A main street corridor provides ample indoor gathering spaces and easy access to the chapel; a bride’s room; administrative offices; two theater spaces for youth and children; additional educational spaces for children, youth and adults; a warming kitchen; and parking to serve the initial development. “The exposed arched wood trusses with clearstory windows enhance the warmth of the interior space in the main street area as well as in the chapel,” Chegwidden says. The mezzanine level offers access to a recreation area for the youth.

Future development of the phased master plan includes a large 800-seat worship center, a full service kitchen, doubling the size of the gathering space, a 250-seat youth theater, and expanded parking to serve the needs of a larger campus.

Bill Chegwidden is president and a founding partner of CDH Partners, Inc. 

Blurring the Lines Between Community and Church



While the Bridge Community Center is a part of the ministry of First Baptist Church Peachtree City, Georgia, it also has a broad outreach to the progressive community surrounding it. This brightly designed 23,000 square foot public facility contains multi-purpose classrooms used for support groups and tutoring, meeting rooms, a walking track, gym, and café with open lobby seating area offering free WiFi. The youth area provides indoor recreational space that includes a gym, a basketball court, and a theatrical stage with a state of the art audio and video system used for performing arts and concerts.

Learn how this church is blurring the lines between itself and surrounding community. Continuing Reading

Where Two or More Are Gathered

2TheGathering Evening wGIn an editorial interview with Worship Facilities Magazine Bill Chegwidden, founding principal of CDH Partners,  explains how building the right facility can create strong community connections and help a church congregation grow.

In 1999, Pastor Gene Wolfenbarger had a vision of the church he would lead in Sevierville, Tenn., a tourism-driven town nestled against the Great Smoky Mountains. The vision was from Ezekiel 28:25, “… for I will gather them from the distant lands,” and the church would be called “The Gathering.”

Since then, Pastor Gene, as he prefers to be called, has seen The Gathering grow into a regional body of worship, and has been blessed with the people and the tools to share a message of healing and hope with distant nations and local residents. One of those tools is The Gathering’s home base in Sevierville, a place where outdoor and indoor have converged to celebrate God’s creation, making it conducive to human, environmental and spiritual connection. But prior to the facility’s completion in April 2009, The Gathering was meeting in a former fitness center and holding five weekend services. “The Gathering needed a place where people could interact, a place where the children weren’t cramped, and where transition between services wasn’t chaos due to lack of space,” says Wolfenbarger.

Over the years The Gathering acquired nearly 50 acres in a growing area of Sevierville, and in 2007 began “The Great Investment” with the help of Dallas area capital campaign consultant The Gage Group. This campaign, which is ongoing, allows donors to advance through five categories (bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond) based on the number of times they have pledged, not the overall amount given. To date, the church has raised $4 million and, in March 2007, was able to break ground on a 42,000-square-foot, $11.3-million, state-of-the-art facility. Continue Reading