Eco Abet – St. Mary Orthodox Church

As a follow up to our last blog post about an upcoming volunteer design opportunity our own, Vicki McGuire, had a chance to participate in on behalf of Interior Surface; we would like to give you a run down of how it went.

Vicki and her team designed a new temple for St. Mary Orthodox Church using sustainable, natural building materials. Below are pictures of both the inspirations used for design, as well as some of the design process the team went through. Here are also the circumstances and needs that led the St. Mary Orthodox Church to this redesign.

St. Mary of Egypt Serbian Orthodox Church started in 1993 as an outgrowth of ReconciliationMinistries at 31st and Troost. We have been on the corner since 1987. Many of us are convertsto the Orthodox Christian faith. We have found there a spiritual connection in very difficulttimes. The Russian Orthodox novelist put it well when he said, “Beauty will save the world.” InGreek and Russian, Beauty has a double meaning – beauty (as evidenced by the awe felt in the
soul upon beholding) and goodness (internal balance, integration of the heart, and purity).Since 1993 our community has grown from 13 souls to now over 150. We are currentlycrammed in a space on the 3rd floor of 3101 Troost Avenue. One third of our parish arerefugees from war and oppression from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Serbia. Another thirdcome from the immediate neighborhood around our building. The other third come from many ethnicities who come from Lawrence, KS, Cameron, MO, Belton, MO and throughout GreaterKansas City.Last year, we purchased two lots on the southwest corner of 31st and Harrison. Next to thoselots on the south is a large parking lot that the city said we could lease for $10 a year (sharingit with the KC Athaneum on Linwood and Campbell, and Save, Inc. on 31st and Harrison. Themoney comes from sacrificial giving from members of our community to build a temple. TheEritreans have sold tickets twice for a wonderful meal that helped catalyze the process. This has been followed up with determination and generosity by the other members. The temple will reflect the many cultures gathered in our parish and we hope will be an inspiration to the greater Troost village for generations to come. We want it to reflect ourrich history as well as be an example of sustainability, while leaving as small of a “carbon footprint” as possible. For building materials we have discussed straw bale to compactedearth (Great Wall of China model :). We would have quite a party with all of us compacting earth making the church! Throughout the generations, the model of Orthodox Christianarchitecture has sought to blend in with the environment and setting.
We are looking at two primary models – one circular (drawing from the traditional Eritreanand Ethiopian culture); the other cruciform (the more standard Byzantine model). Key to our understanding and worship is the idea of an icon. In Orthodox theology, an icon is a “window
of heaven.” The church and the murals and/or the icon (paintings) on the wall are to lead theparticipant to an encounter with the other world. More information on Orthodox Architecture can be found in the 11 page document by Andrew Gould. A blending of the circular and the Byzantine are found in Thessaloniki and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Denver, CO.