This is the fourth in a series of articles to update and inform the congregation of the renovation project for St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church.
In the very early days of the Church, prior to entering any place of worship where the Eucharist was celebrated, there was a “waiting area” for those who had not yet been baptized or those who were serving a penance awaiting readmission to the Table of the Lord. Today, what once was a waiting area now serves more as a threshold, a space between the outside world and the congregation’s sacred place of worship. The Gathering Space helps believers to make the transition from everyday life to the celebration of the liturgy; and after the liturgy, it helps them return to daily life to live out the mystery that has been celebrated. Overall, the Gathering Space brings people together and prepares them for the celebration of Mass. After Mass it prepares them to re-enter the world.
The Gathering Space (narthex) plays a critical role in bringing us together as the Body of Christ. In today's world we have the privilege to travel near or far to our places of worship. With this we see people we recognize and other times there are guests and strangers among us. For the last century we have entered our church by five separate doors from five different directions. We leave the church through those same five doors, often without the opportunity to greet anyone or having anyone greet us. In the renovation plan, while there will be multiple doors to the church, they will all enter and exit from the Gathering Space. This will provide a much safer and comfortable place gather before and after Mass rather than the sidewalk along the highway!
In the renovation plan, the Gathering Space will be separated from the worship area by a glass wall.
Being equipped with a sound system, the physical separation will provide a place for parents to be with active children and still participate in the Liturgy. Also, it will serve as overflow seating for holidays and special occasions. Lastly, the Gathering Space will include a small serving kitchen for the ease of serving refreshments for socials, receptions or any other need to gather.
Liturgically, the Gathering Space also provides a space to welcome the catechumens and to greet the parents and families of those who are to be baptized. Last but not least, it is where Christians are greeted for the last time as their mortal remains are received into the church building for the celebration of the funeral rites.
The Gathering Space is a critical part of the reorientation of the church building and the reorientation of our understanding of ourselves as church. We come from many walks of life, but we do not celebrate the Mass as individuals; we celebrate it as a community of faith. The Gathering Space is an architectural way of creating what the Spirit of God intended at Pentecost: We are many parts; we are all one body.
Entering the church from the Gathering Space you will find the Baptismal Font. Through the waters of baptism, the faithful enter the life of Christ. For this reason, the font should be visible and accessible to all who enter the church building. It should be a permanent fixture, noble and prominent. In our church the baptismal bowl we have been using does not honor the Sacrament as it should. Placing the baptismal font in an area near the Gathering Space where members pass as they enter the church symbolizes its importance in relationship to the Eucharist within the life and faith development of the members of the Body of Christ.
 Built of Living Stones – Art, Architecture and Worship (USSCB) par. 67