• Floating-Altar
  • 2013-7-13-First-Presbyterian-Church-of-Urbana-Choir-Loft-(1)
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…my attention is drawn to the communion table below the warm glow of the stained glass. The different colors and patterns attract my attention and enable me to become centered and focused on worshiping God. Just as the various interpretations of light support the cross in our dark sanctuary, I celebrate our church family diversity and am mindful that collectively we are the Light in the Darkness.
– Church Member

On October 5, 2014, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sanctuary. Our church was designed and constructed in the early 1960s at the height of the Mid-Century Modern movement (MCM) in architecture.

Richard Williams, the architect, was a major practitioner of MCM and served on the faculty of UI’s School of Architecture. Two of the main tenets of MCM design are: eliminate the unnecessary, and express volume rather than mass.

The cross, lighted by a stained-glass reredos [window behind the altar], represents our congregation, the Church. The approximately 2,000 stained glass window “pieces” are an art expression that represent the meaning of being a Protestant church. We are a congregation living (lighting) the reality of Christ’s resurrection (the empty cross). The reredos is us, all together, a “light for Christ.”

With the primary focus being the cross and congregation connection, the other primary design decisions followed – a balcony-located organ and choir, and, finally, to express volume rather than mass, a “floating roof” combined with a “floating altar.”

This space is special for it makes reality lighter (floating) just as Christ’s gift has done, making a life with forgiveness and love a “Lighter Life.”

~Written by Bob Porter, architect and church member