St. Catherine’s vision of sacred space becomes a reality.
By Deirdre Steinberg, editor, The Oregon Episcopal Church News

St. Catherine’ s church was dedicated on September 11, 2005. The following article, printed in the Oregon Episcopal Church News before theStC-dedication-1024x677 church was completed, details what went into the planning process.

For five years it was only a dream — a vision of a sacred space. But now it is a looming reality. On Sept. 12, Bishop Johncy Itty will put shovel to earth and spade up a chunk of soil for the firstever church building of St. Catherine, Manzanita.

The small mid-coastal diocesan mission of 100 congregants (and many Anglican vacationers who return year after year) has been planning and raising money for the new structure since 1999, says Mary Cramer, chair of the building fund. Phase I of the construction is slated to take nine months from groundbreaking.

St. Catherine began as a mission church of Calvary, Seaside in 1954. It has remained a mission church and has always been in rented space, which hampered what congregants could create as a house of worship, explains Paul Barthelemy, St. Catherine’s vicar. “There was a real will to build a church here and a mystical sense that we needed it,” he adds. Frank Dorscheimer, a long-time diocesan leader who died this past summer, was a major force in gathering up this vision and moving it forward, says Barthelemy.

Phase I

When Phase I is complete the church will have a sanctuary, sacristy, entrance hall, narthex, bathrooms and some offices. The parish hall is Phase II and will need additional fundraising. Through everything from bake and rummage sales to large contributions from individuals, St. Catherine’s has raised $680,804 to make its dream come true. Another $190,000 was raised to buy the tranquil spot where the church will sit on Highway 101 between Manzanita and Nehalem.

“We are all amazed at how successful the fundraising has been. Frank Dorscheimer’s vision and belief in St. Catherine’s was the beacon that began the process and his spirit has continued to lead us forward,” says Cramer. “Paul’s leadership added direction and strength to the spirit and vision.”

‘Green’ worship

Tom Bender of Neahkahnie is the architect for St. Catherine’s. He has won several national and international awards for his environmentally-friendly “green” designs. In 2001, he was the National Award Winner for Sustainable Design of the American Institute of Architects and in 2002 was cited by the same group for designing one of the Top 10 Green Buildings of the year. In 2002, the 1000 Friends of Oregon named him Developer of the Year.

“The parishioners said they wanted to create a place that connected worshipers more deeply with the rest of creation and they also wanted to have it be environmentally responsive,” says Bender. “What we’ve done is tried to make the garden a sacred space in itself and have the sanctuary be a place to focus inward.”

To do this, Bender has not flooded the sanctuary with electric light, but designed a skylight that brings light down onto the altar. Low windows on two sides of the sanctuary will bring in sunlight rippling of the surface of the outside reflecting pool and focus it onto the ceiling of the sanctuary, creating a meditative feeling in the worship space. The garden is a satisfying mixture of wetlands, forest and open lawn with a meditation walkway.

To maximize the greening of St. Catherine’s architecture, Bender plans to use local materials, reducing energy and operating costs. This will be accomplished, he says, by choosing heating and cooling systems that are more environmentally sustainable. There will be more insulation than is called for by code. Instead of air-conditioning, a system that pre-cools the sanctuary floor will be installed using water from a sand point well for the few days a year that it is actually hot on the coast. For heating, Bender has recommended a propane-fired water heater that will circulate hot water through the floors and baseboard heaters.

Fair compromises with architectural flair!

“The people of St. Catherine’s have opened their hearts to my ideas and they’ve been wonderful to work with,” says Bender, who did his first green building 35 years ago in Minneapolis, MN, when green was not much of a concept taught in architectural schools or employed commercially.

He says that everyone on the building committee and the congregants themselves have been “very clear on what they want to see happen and why.” When conflicts of vision have arisen, Bender feels they have been accommodated. For example, some worshipers did not want to see others while they prayed, it would be too distracting. Others felt energized and moved when seeing others pray. The compromise was not to make straightahead pews or circular pews, but, rather, a “semi-curved arrangement” that will allow people to choose where to sit — to either block out or see others while praying.

“Nothing has prepared us for the sense of wonder, gratitude and community that we feel as the process has moved forward toward construction,” says Cramer. “We have been truly blessed.”

Additional information: St Catherine’s became separate mission on January 1, 1984.