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Public Invited to Architectural Exploration of Christ Church

On Saturday, Sept. 11, parishioners will open the church doors for a tour of the building's intriguing architecture.

Hamilton's Christ Church will go under the peering eyes of architects and curious visitors this weekend.

Conceived and organized by church member David Maurand, the idea behind the planned architectural tour of the church building is "to explore what the buildings of this unusual church are saying," Maurand said.

Architects Bruce Dicker and Mark Moeller, both of the architectural firm JSA Inc. of Portsmouth, N.H., assisted by Rev. Dean Borgman, will lead the tour. Borgman, founder and director of the Center for Youth Studies and currently the Culpepper Chair of Youth Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, knows the Episcopal church well since he directed services at its pulpit for 30 years.

"When David first proposed the tour, some may have rolled their eyes, but the architecture is interesting," explains Borgman. "The old church's Norman-style chapel was built in 1929, and because it was rather small, with only 144 seats, discussion for a new chapel started early."

Visitors to Asbury Street church will notice right away that it is composed of two distinct halves.

"The old chapel stands diagonal to the street and the new church is offset to the road, so when construction started neighbors needed some reassuring," said Borgman.

The newer building boasts a pronounced curve in its stone face.

"The curvature disguises the offset discrepancy," Borgman said.

The older chapel, built of fieldstones, is the more familiar and immediately welcoming of the two constructions. The other, according to Maurand, "is an unusual church, and not exactly warm and cosy."

But all the major symbols are there.

"Only they are deployed in a much more imaginative way," Maurand added with apparent pride.

Rev. Patrick Gray, who took the helm of Christ Church last October, said though the church is very different from that of his former church, The Church of the Advent at Beacon Hill in Boston, "it expresses a sense of God's majestic grandeur."

In response to Maurand's comment about the modern building's comparative hardness, Gray said "lots of things that happen in the service smooth out the rough edges and build up to communion. Too much comfort can provide false intimacy. When you preach God's word, it's different than just talking. Having some space between me and the parishioners is helpful."

Asked whether Christ Church's modern architecture has impacted his preaching, Gray said, "Only in that I needed to get used to using a microphone."

The architectural tour begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11 at the main entrance of Christ Church on Asbury Street and is free and open to all.

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