St. Anne Catholic Church’s new 26,000-square-foot sanctuary is well on the road to completion, and Father Joe Smith couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have gone so far.
On Thursday, the church’s pastor of 12 years spoke to the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill during the civic group’s weekly luncheon at the City Center in J.F. Gregory Park. He provided an update on the structure’s construction, which began Oct. 2 and is expected to be finished in 11 or 12 months, according to Smith.
“Everybody’s been happy. Where we’re at right now, we’re under budget, on time, and not one change order. If you’re not familiar with the term change order, it’s an awful thing. It just means the price is going to go up drastically and everybody’s going to have to share it,” he said.
When planning the new worship center, Smith and his parishioners were intent on keeping with the established architectural style and design of Richmond Hill, which is why they opted to forego flashier materials for ones more commonly seen in the community’s historic dwellings and even some newer buildings.
“When we were deciding on the building, we wanted to harken back as much as possible to what the community looks like. So, there’s not going to be a lot of marble in there because you don’t see marble,” the pastor said. “You’re going to see more brick than anything. You’re going to see granite tile throughout, hard surfaces, no carpets. Extremely hard surfaces, classical pews — they’re being made in Nebraska. They farm during the summer and the spring, and they make pews during the winter.
“On the inside of the building is lot of fine carpentry work (by) Mennonites from Waynesboro. … The contractor is a company called R.W. Allen. Rick Allen recently was elected to serve in the Senate from the Augusta area. It’s his company that’s building our church,” Smith continued.
The sanctuary’s interior also boasts a sky-blue floating ceiling that will better allow for the transference of heat and sound. The palladium-style windows were, as often as possible, installed in triplication, which is in line with the style of the church’s current sanctuary.
The pastor also hopes to commission some artwork to complement the architecture and décor.
“I’m going to try to get as many artists as possible from SCAD to do artwork in the building,” Smith said. “I’d like it to be original and I’d like it to be local.”
He added that he’d also like to keep the cost low. The cruciform-style sanctuary already is expected to cost about $10 million, according to the pastor, plus “soft costs” on the inside, which includes about $600,000 for architecture.
While the design includes an 86-foot-tall bell tower, which, when built, will be the tallest structure in Richmond Hill, other features are more subdued.
For example, “you don’t see lots of parking in the front. You drive by the building to get to the parking. It hides it in a sense,” said Smith, who also emphasized respect and preservation of the surrounding natural scenery. “We’re going to follow to the letter – actually I think we’re exceeding by, I think, 30 percent – the local tree ordinance.”
Exceeding numbers is something the pastor quickly has grown accustomed to. St. Anne’s Holy Family Hall was built in 2006, and the congregation already has outgrown it. Smith also acknowledged the need for an educational facility, which likely will be one of the next projects on the church’s to-do list.
“The next building we’re going to be building is educational,” he said, pointing out that about 400 children are enrolled in religious-education classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.
And although the church does have some land to work with, Smith isn’t quite sure yet what will eventually come to stand on it.
“We still have about 10 or 15 acres of land left to develop on Frances Meeks (Way) that goes all the way down to the public school that’s on the left-hand side. We don’t know what that’s going to be. … I’m really not sure,” he said.
One thing he is sure of, however, is the parish’s need for the new sanctuary, which has the capacity to seat 1,000.
“The community is growing. We don’t just see the numbers, we feel them. I’m not just a big believer in ‘you build it and they will come.’ I think that, to me, this is divinely inspired, because I’ve made so many mistakes it’s pathetic. And the Lord has trucked me through it. I’ve had problems with contractors. I’ve had problems with vendors. And in the process of all that, it’s worked itself out,” Smith said. “This has been a humbling experience. This has been a joyful experience. This has been a community experience.”