Guiding Principles

Certain priorities emerged at this stage, including the primacy of worship. Being an ecumenical community, the Community of Jesus wanted a space that would emphasize the common bond and heritage shared by all Christians. As a community rooted in the Benedictine monastic tradition, they needed a space that would strengthen communal life and be expressive of such monastic values as discipleship, conversion of life, and hospitality. As a community governed by the Word of God, they called for a space that would teach the Word and express its truth with beauty and dignity. Each aspect of the program was researched thoroughly in light of these principles, resulting in content that focused on specific theological themes in various parts of the edifice, its furnishings, and its arts – a consistent, comprehensive, and cohesive plan.

The liturgy committee sought a regional architect who would agree to build a basilican church and also to evaluate – from an external perspective – every aspect of the program, including the site.  William Rawn Associates of Boston was hired in August 1994, and within weeks, Rawn and his staff provided the committee with alternate site plans. During this process, it became clear that separate buildings for meetings and for the refectory would better serve the needs of the Community, and that additional spaces for offices and a gift shop were needed – all built in proper relationship with one another.
Rawn employed what he called a New England village green concept to create a contemporary expression of a monastic community and to position the church, together with all the surrounding support buildings, in its most natural and desirable location within the Community. The classical form of the stone church and the characteristically Cape Cod architecture of the wooden structures would make them appear integral with their environment, lending an element of timelessness to their presence. In keeping with the colonial tradition that every harbor should have a beacon and home marker, the tower would rise over the tree line.

An additional concern emerged with the new plan – the orientation of the church. The liturgy committee established that the church should face east in keeping with the tradition through the centuries of church buildings facing the rising sun, facing Jerusalem, and looking for the return of Christ. Further research reveled that facing east also was a long-standing tradition in this area of Cape Cod, as the Nauset Native Americans who lived on the outer Cape for centuries considered themselves “people of the first light,” making this decision yet another way to honor the ethos of the area.

The liturgy committee met weekly from 1994 to 1998.  Together with the architects and consultants, committee members traveled to Italy, France, and Croatia, visiting fifty-four ecclesiastical and monastic sites to understand better the possible ways to develop and express the vision of the church through architecture and art. The committee also began to look for artists, including mosaicists, fresco artists, and stone sculptors.

Next Page: Planning the Art