Our Sanctuary – A Work of Heart

Welcome to Ardmore Baptist!

Christ Window

Our church is a community of believers in Christ and we welcome you into our house of worship. Included in our building design are many symbols of our beliefs. This guide has been written to acquaint you with each section of our sanctuary and to help you understand the religious history, symbolism, and significance of each part.

Courtyard Approach
The courtyard in front of the sanctuary building is reminiscent of enclosed courtyards found in front of many ancient churches and provides a transition space from the parking area to the building entry. Since Middle English, it has been called a parvis, derived from the Latin paradisus, referring to the original paradise, the Garden of Eden. Within the courtyard, you will find a path laid in a cruciform (cross) shape and composed of the “walk of faith” – bricks inscribed with the names of members and friends of the Ardmore Baptist congregation. The names of the church’s charter members have been placed at the intersection point of the cross.

The steeple is an eight-sided spire topped with a cross that “reads” from every direction. The spire sits atop a carillon tower which contains electronic bells. These bells, which can be heard throughout the Ardmore community, and the exterior platform around the spire, represent a call to join in worship and an extension of our “Ardmore welcome” to our neighbors.

Entry Door
The entry into the sanctuary portion of the building features a single doorway, a reference to Jesus’ claim in John 10:9, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

The Narthex
When you cross over the threshold into the building, you find yourself in the foyer, or narthex. This word comes from the Greek word for “box” and originally referred to a large fennel plant, whose large, cane-like stalks were used to produce small storage enclosures. This box became an architectural feature in early church design, as a gathering space for those who were not eligible to enter the holy space of the sanctuary - those who had not been baptized - and as a space where worshipers prepared to enter. In the oldest churches, the narthex is often a windowless space, a place to wait in darkness before entering the light of the sanctuary. At Ardmore, there is one circular stained glass window above the entry doors. The design of a dove representing the Holy Spirit, flying over a globe, communicates a prayer for God’s Spirit to be poured out on all the earth.

Sculptural Frieze
A sculptural frieze is located around the top of the narthex. These biblical scenes were designed and hand-carved out of plastic sheeting by Barry Parks, the sanctuary architect and a former member of our church.

The images on the left side illustrate Old Testament stories:
1 - Creation, (Genesis 1); 2 - Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-25); 3 - Noah’s ark (Genesis 6-9); 4 - Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19); 5 - Joseph receives his brothers in Egypt (Genesis 42:6-25); 6 - Moses in the bulrushes (Exodus 2:1-10); 7 - the Israelites cross the Red Sea (Exodus 14); 8 - Delivery of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); 9 - Joshua and the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6); 10 - Ruth (Ruth 1-4); 11 - David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17); 12 - King Solomon makes a decision (1 Kings 3); 13 - Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); 14 - Jews are taken into captivity (2 Kings 25); 15 - Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:1-28); 16 - Esther appears before the king to plead for the Jews (Esther 2:1-18); 17 - Temple is rebuilt (Ezra 3:7-13);      18 - Jonah and the Whale (Jonah 1-4).

The ribbon of scenes on the opposite side of the room pick up major stories from the New Testament: 1 - the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38);    2 - Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7); 3 - the Nativity (Luke 2:8-20); 4 - Jesus is baptized by John (Mark 1:9-11); 5 - Jesus speaks with the woman at the well (John 4:1-16); 6 - Jesus heals the man brought by his friends (Mark 2:1-12); 7 - the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); 8 - Jesus blesses the children (Luke 18:15-17); 9 - Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44); 10 - Jesus heals the demoniac (Mark 5:1-18); 11 - Jesus calms a storm at sea (Mark 4:35-41); 12 - Jesus enters Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-44); 13 - the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-38); 14 - Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:46-49); 15 - Jesus is placed in a tomb (Luke 23:50-56); 16 - Resurrection is announced by an angel to three women (Mark 16:1-8); 17 - Jesus appears to the disciples, including Thomas (John 20:24-31); 18 - Jesus charges his disciples with the Great Commission and ascends into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53).

Located to the left of the narthex, under the Old Testament frieze, is the connection to the church’s lobby. The lobby serves as a greeting and visiting area as well as a connection to the rest of the building. The tapestries hanging at the entry to the lobby feature fabric swatches provided by the congregation members, each swatch representing a significant memory. A description of each swatch, its donor, and what it represents, is contained in the book below the tapestries. The pattern of these art pieces is based on the beautiful faceted stained glass windows located in the church’s former worship space and are meant to bridge the transition between old and new.

Hospitality Room or Parlor
The doorway on the opposite side of the narthex leads into a room designed to serve brides and their parties before weddings, bereaved families at times of funerals, small groups in conference, and as a place to welcome guests after church each Sunday. One portion of the space is semi-circular, reminiscent of medieval monastic chapter houses.

Enter to Worship
There are three sets of doors leading from the narthex into the sanctuary. The central opening is marked with architectural trim and the words “Enter to Worship”, calling us to prepare ourselves for a time of worship as we reflect on and celebrate God’s presence in our lives.

Since the earliest movements of the Christian church were in areas under the control of the Roman Empire, it is no surprise that once legalized by Constantine, the first churches met in the most common type of public building, the basilica. This building type featured a long central hallway, often with aisles on either side divided from the middle by a line of columns and culminating in a raised platform which was often placed under a dome and backed by a curved end wall. As churches began to expand, the basilica was modified by adding an intersecting section of hall – with or without aisles – forming a plan that was cruciform. While there was a functional reason for this design - to get the largest number of people possible close to the center of the action in an era when the ability to span large distances was structurally limited - there is little doubt that the cross shape figured strongly in the imagination of worshipers, who saw not only the reference to the wooden cross, but also the outstretched arms of the Christ who had hung on that device. The heart of the church – the center of the crossing of the main and intersecting halls – represented the very heart of Christ.

The Ardmore sanctuary floor plan emulates the same idea. The central axis terminates in a segmented wall behind the choir, and the “cross arms” end in large sections of colored glass windows. In this building, the pews are segmented so that the aisles converge on the center point of the room. The separation between the central hall and the aisles is implied in this room. The exposed column enclosures are pushed to the corners to mark the points of intersection between central and cross halls. In the early churches built for the purpose, the congregations often had their choice of precut columns from a variety of Roman edifices that had fallen into disuse over time. The columns may have been drawn from a variety of sources, thus were often mismatched and the congregations named them for local saints and biblical characters. At Ardmore, the columns are essentially alike and are composed of a four-part column barrel to represent the four gospels from which so much of our understanding of Jesus is derived. The capitals of these columns carry a design that represents an empty cross lying before an empty tomb, the penultimate image of the New Testament.

The early church structures, because they were trying to span larger distances, employed rather elaborate structural roof support systems that resembled the hulls of boats. Since those churches were founded along the Mediterranean coast by missionaries who used the sea trade routes, some were even constructed by boat builders. The section of the sanctuary in front of the raised platform or chancel became known as the Nave, a term that is clearly connected to our terms navy and naval. Ardmore features a series of roof trusses designed to provide the needed structural support for the roof above, as well as to create the acoustic space necessary for the size of the church’s organ. They are arc-shaped to remind worshipers of two biblical rainbows: the first, found in Genesis, that God placed before Noah as a covenant of his enduring presence and forbearance, and the second, found in Revelation 4:3, where it marks the throne of God.

The chancel (raised platform area) is meant to be the primary focus of the sanctuary. In Baptist heritage, there are two ordinances, baptism and communion, as well as a strong emphasis on preaching. In most Baptist churches, these elements are emphasized by their placement along a line at the center of the church. Front and center is the communion table, followed by the pulpit, and behind the pulpit an opening that allows for views of the baptistry and its waters. At Ardmore, the elements remain the same, but their arrangement is shifted to a side-to- side alignment, and each element is visually connected with its related aspect of the Trinity. The communion table has been placed on a raised platform on the left side of the space. Its message is reinforced by a pictorial window behind it that includes the symbols of communion, the bread and cup that Jesus shared with his disciples during those last hours before his death on the cross. Communion remembers Christ’s sacrifice. Still central to the plan is the pulpit, the projecting point for those called to share God’s word. The baptismal pool is located on the right side where it becomes more of a community event. The pool is octagonal, a shape symbolically related to beginning again, as eight can be read as starting again after a cycle of seven. Baptism is a symbol of the new life given to a professing Christian, a life that is supported by the work of the Holy Spirit. Now the roof truss arcs reflect one other truth – that the three aspects of the Trinity are contained within an overall singularity.

Looking at the layout of the room in another way, the window to the west (the right-hand side) is entitled “Come Unto Me”. This invitation is extended to those outside the building as well as to those within. Once this invitation has been accepted, the believer is baptized, hears the word proclaimed, partakes of the Lord’s Supper with other believers, and then departs to spread the message to others, as described in Jesus’ parable of the seed sower, and illustrated in the other large window (on the left-hand side) entitled “Go Ye Therefore”.  

There are other scenes and symbols found within the larger faceted glass windows. In the “Come Unto Me” window are titles for Christ, “Lord”, and “Savior”. Flowing through all the windows is “Living Water”. Christ is the Good Shepherd and bringer of light. He calls us to faithfulness and extends his arms and grace to our church and our community. In the “Go Ye Therefore” window, each panel represents a story from the New Testament: Matthew’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount in the left panel, Mark’s account of the resurrection in the next panel, Jesus’ parable of the shepherd’s search for his lost sheep as told by Luke in the third panel, and in the last panel, John’s account of the blind man whose eyes are opened. He has traded his dark world for one lit by the cross. The faceted glass windows within the narthex and sanctuary were commissioned for the building from Salem Stained Glass Studios, designed by Bobby McGhee and fabricated by Ronnie York.

The cross behind the choir was designed and constructed by church members Jason Wilcox and Van Cockerham from walnut. Wood from the same tree was used by church member Claude Edwards when he constructed the cross that served as a focal point for many years in the previous worship space, Brown Auditorium.
The wall behind the choir features show pipes from the Reuter organ designed for the space. The organ has three manuals and pedals and incorporates more than 2600 pipes, most of which lie in the 44 ranks of pipes placed directly behind those that can be seen. The smallest pipes are about the size of a small pencil, while the largest have a speaking length of 16 feet. The pipes are operated from the console, which is connected with a moveable cable, allowing the console to be shifted to other positions on the chancel when desired. The grand piano is a 9-foot Baldwin concert grand, given anonymously by two church members.

The chalice and paten on the communion table were created by Spruce Pine artist, Carl Peverall. The two pieces are porcelain-like white earthenware, the white representing the purification qualities within the act of communion. The platter, or paten, is ringed with small intersecting circles. This pattern – known as the vesica piscis – is an early symbol for Christ. The cup, or chalice, is composed of a sphere atop a stem. The sphere serves as both a balance point for the hand and a symbol of the earthly globe. This globe is pierced with a hole representing the hope for light to shine through each of us.

Depart to Serve
Over the central door at the rear of the sanctuary are the words “Depart to Serve”, asking us to serve his world in the spirit of Christ.

You are welcome to visit our church at any time.

Typical Sunday Morning Schedule
Worship at 8:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.
Sunday School/Bible Study at 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday Evening
Prayer, Praise, and Proclamation Service at 6:00 p.m.