TAYLORS — Nearly 1,000 parishioners joined Bishop Robert J. Baker in celebrating the dedication Sept. 21 of the long-awaited Prince of Peace Church.
The bishop led a three-hour celebration that started on the sunny, warm afternoon with a short procession from the old church to the new building, where the pastor, Father Steven L. Brovey, unlocked the massive 14-foot-high solid walnut doors.
The new $6.5 million church “has been a dream for a long time, and we did it with your sacrifice and prayers,” Father Brovey told the congregation toward the end of the Mass, a celebration that included anointing of the marble altar, concrete walls and the 12 consecration stones in the 17,000-square-foot church that will seat 1,200.
The stones, which are embedded in those concrete walls, were hand-carved by members of the parish. They symbolize the 12 gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. Bishop Baker also burned incense on the altar while deacons processed with incense throughout the church building. The bishop and deacons also lit altar and consecration candles.
Following Communion, the bishop led a procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the sanctuary to the church tabernacle.
The new church’s European design blends both Roman-esque and contemporary architecture, with exposed wood beams along its 120-foot nave. It includes ancient concepts such as a baptistery set in the floor at the center of the main aisle, apse forms in the transepts and a raised ambo (lectern) located at the crossing (of the two lateral arms of the church).
The Greenville architectural firm Craig, Gaulden and Davis designed the building. Church members provided ideas incorporated into the altar crucifix and the triptych designed by Pietro Smith, a religious artist from New Jersey. The architecture and interior design firm received a merit award from the Greenville Section of the American Institute of Architects for the design of the church.
The still-to-be-completed Stations of the Cross mosaic will include stone and glass provided by parishioners and collected from their travels throughout the world.
The stones come from as close as one parishioner’s pond to as far away as the Admiralty Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Two pieces are from the daughter of a parishioner who witnessed the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The new church is more than double the size of the old one, which served as worship space until growth forced the parish to move Mass to the gymnasium. The old church is being converted into a parish hall, which will be named Croghan Hall, after Msgr. William Croghan.
Parishioner Sue Zedek, who was a key player, said moving into the new building has served as a “spiritual renewal” for many.
“I think everybody is pleased to see this day finally arrive,” Zedek said. “We were almost five years in that gym. Everyone is proud of the achievement they have accomplished,” she said.
In his homily Bishop Baker spoke of the celebration of the Eucharist in a setting worthy of so great a mystery, and told the congregation that the new church was the result of their generosity and sacrifices.
“Whom will you and I receive here today? Whom will you and I meet personally? Jesus,” he said. “Our liturgy and our church building attempt to provide a setting worthy of that special event. What is important in all of this is dignity of celebration. The church uses an abundance of signs, symbols, prayers, gestures of praise; whatever can help us realize what is happening and who is present.
“What our place of worship looks like and the rituals we use in our celebrations are very important. They define what we are doing and whom we are meeting. God himself is the center of celebrations.”
The bishop went on to say, “Here at Prince of Peace Church we are very fortunate, very fortunate to have so beautiful a liturgical setting to celebrate our meeting point with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”