Continuing to photograph megachurches and other contemporary religious structures. One of the most influential such institutions is Pat Robertson’s 700 Club (Christian Broadcasting Network) and Regent Unversity located in Virginia Beach. Both the broadcasting operation and school are located on a campus just off of Interstate 64. The campus is comprised of a collection of large colonial style buildings set in a well-tended, often beautiful, landscape. The buildings evoke Virginia heritage, but are grossly out of scale–classicism on steroids. I did several pictures of the communications building with a bevy of CBN satellite dishes off to one side.
Although the majority of megachurches are located in the new suburbs, or exurban areas of American cities, a significant number are found in older suburbs or near downtown. Rock Church is in a somewhat more mature suburban area of Virginia Beach. It’s hard to talk about Virginia Beach as a conventional city. It was originally a beach front town to the east of Norfolk, but eventually white flight and others forces of suburbanization turned it into the state’s largest city. It lacks a center, and although there are beautiful neighborhoods, much of the city can be described as sprawl.
Rock Church is a large structure, and apparently replaces an earlier domed hall a block away. It stands directly opposite a public school and their parking lots, more or less, run together. A waterfall gushes into a small pond out front. The stars and stripes flew at half mast when I was there, I think in memory of their pastor who had recently died.
Not far from Regent University I photographed around Atlantic Shores Baptist Church, which stands across from a shopping center and a new apartment complex. Unlike the other places I’ve visited Atlantic Shores actually displays a cross on a central tower, which makes it more immediately recognizable as a religious complex. It’s a somewhat scruffy property with temporary buildings and a broad grassy field that appears to be used for parking when needed. I did one picture looking across the field, and a couple of views from the apartment complex with the cross rising up in the distance.
Driving around Virginia Beach I came across London Bridge Bridge Baptist Church, which features a huge conventional church front with box-like sanctuary tucked behind. I don’t have a digital photo to show, but I took several pictures with the view camera, one from the neighborhood across the street. I ended the day at Wave Church, which is in the process of constructing a decidedly unchurch like extension. This glass curtain walled building called the Wave Convention Center could easily fit into a corporate office park.
Here’s what it says on their website:
WAVE CONVENTION CENTER
Once completed, WCC will be a 90,000 square foot 2,500 seat auditorium, with every seat having a great view of the stage. It will feature a built-in baptismal pool, beautiful new screens for media and a stage for Worship & Creative Arts. There will be plenty of room for conferences, productions, Christmas and Easter services, Hillsong nights, etc. WCC will aslo provide plenty of alter space for people to respond to the call of the Kingdom, as people stream to Christ.
The foyer will serve many purposes. The 1st floor will offer an express-line bookshop, coffee shop and information area. The 2nd floor will provide a destination bookshop and a coffee shop where people can stop to read, buy a coffee or snack and connect to the internet via WI-FI. The 3rd floor will provide much needed office space for our pastors and staff. As we continue to grow, we want the quality of our Pastoral Care to grow as well. The building itself will also provide 10 restrooms, including 26 men’s and 38 women’s stalls. This is a significant increase.
But of course, it’s not about the bricks and mortar…
Back in Williamsburg where I was visiting my father, I photographed the Williamsburg Community Chapel, which has just about completed a major new extension. This church sits in the woods off of route 5, a beautiful highway between Williamsburg and Richmond. The area around the church is rapidly growing, and the woods are fast disappearing. Like so many of these large churches, the parking lot is the primary feature of the landscape; empty much of the time.
I photographed the new side of the church with entrance portico and parking lot in the foreground. Many of the houses in the neighborhood nearby were empty, but I don’t know if that’s the result of the current housing slowdown seen across the country, or just the normal turnaround time for new houses.