Editor’s Note: Since the early aughts, I have had the privilege of friendship with Lauren Lloyd, our TCS architectural advisor and longtime member. We would often speak about calling, work, art, ambition, faith, and confusion. These deep, eloquent responses to my questions reveal Lauren’s faithful artistry, but, more importantly, they show the consistent lovingkindness of God in his providence.
JR: Did you grow up wanting to be an architect? Did you ever picture yourself working on projects like this?
LL: My earliest memories of identity and calling had everything to do with artistic expression. I remember declaring at age 5 with an unwavering clarity that I would grow up to be an artist. I spent my childhood painting, drawing, flower arranging, and roaming about unseen imaginary castles. My father was a contractor, and I spent many a childhood hour combing around his job sites and appreciating what could come out of what was not. I think I was then and I still am now enamored with the vision and potential of creating spaces that are lovely and a comfort to those therein. In use of space and material, there is the opportunity to reorder, uncover, or even create anew an architecture both responsive to and reflective of the beauty it houses.
Ironically, I also spent my childhood in an a cappella church that met in a plain low-lying office building in a business park. There was little if any art on the walls. Every Sunday meant the same star-spangled PowerPoint slides and tired faux flower arrangements. I struggled to draw a strong connection between my artistic intuition and my experience of church as a place. “Church is the people,” I was often reminded. It left me with an unspoken assumption that artistry was ineffectual, even trivial or, dare I say, worldly when applied to a church context. It was difficult to hold both the beauty of faith in a God of wonders and the sense that He seemed so separate from the art he placed in me.
It was in coming to Trinity that I was blessed with the opportunity to see Christians modeling a more complete integration of their faith and their creative gifting. Through music, the written word, or even the ever changing visual on the front of the bulletin, I was able to see brothers and sisters connecting their art to their worship, and it was so, so beautiful.
If I am fully honest, I would have to admit that there was a rather long season where I did not think I would ever be called to work on a project like the TCS remodel. Childhood church experience aside, I had a rather crushing time slogging my way through architecture at UW, and it has taken me many years to come around to the field again. I think I was afraid that perhaps that allure to see beauty in the built environment had passed me by somehow. I wondered if the artist in me had withered away after stepping away to raise my 3 kids. It has taken me years of humbly reconsidering my place as a creative within the body of the church to prepare my heart to enter into this particular design process. It is God who has moved my stubborn, insecure heart that He might use my gifts for my joy and the edification of his church.
JR: Are there a couple of personal or professional experiences in your past that you feel God used to prepare you for this project at TCS?
LL: I have long held a penchant for old English ironstone dishware. There is something beautiful in the countless hands that have washed it, the innumerable homemade meals that have been lovingly served in it, and the years of tableside conversation that have been spoken over it. All these things have endowed this plain, utilitarian object with a strange currency of great worth and deep beauty. You see the utensil scrapes. There is an occasional chip.
This is much the same as my love of historic architecture and what is so captivating about our project here at TCS. I love the story in the spaces and materials that have stood by and watched the world go by year after year. In a space like Trinity, I deeply treasure the signs of agedness that testify to the faithfulness of Christians long gone to glory. I feel it is precious to preserve—even to celebrate—the marks of age which remind us of Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of witnesses that hems us in both now and over the generations. This is at the heart of my design for Trinity. I cannot wait for you to walk the halls to the sanctuary, look down, and see the marred and imperfect floors which show the marks of walls long gone. The impressions from what was remain; they are a part of the story of this structure. Over the top of those marred halls there is a gleaming clear gloss- you are intended to see what was and live in the beauty of what is. The Lord takes our imperfections, our history, even our sufferings and uses them to His glory. I wanted to preserve as much of this as was possible at TCS.
JR: What has it been like to see the building in “person” more than the people during this quarantine?
LL: I feel like a parent up in the middle of the night putting together a bicycle before Christmas! With each new finish or milestone, I long to turn around and share my excitement with someone, but the big reveal hasn’t happened yet.
During my work, I kept thinking of your lovely faces and of the years of conversation to be had over the empty floors. I kept thinking of your voices and the decades of heartfelt worship that would echo throughout the empty sanctuary.
I have spent many a lone, late night hour scheming up a design for each space, and the empty hollowness was so stark. I was and still am so eager to have us all back to gathering together soon!
JR: What are you most excited for the congregation to experience or see when we are back in the building?
LL: I want you to see and appreciate the hand of the maker.
I want you to see the hand of the craftsman in the sweep of the trowel on the walls. It is not an impersonal surface. There was artistry involved! What once were imperfections and cracks are now intentionally incorporated features in the tapestry of strokes. The result has a lovely, warm, and dynamic finish with a gentle sheen. The colored plaster is a lovely material that celebrates the imperfections that came by agedness and melds with the new construction. The shades for many of the light fixtures are thrown pottery and were chosen specifically for their imperfection.
I also want you to see the hands of the servants. When this building was originally designed, the preparation that went into a Sunday morning was done behind a closed door. The kitchen for preparing the Sunday morning coffee service was tucked away and out of sight. When I considered our new fellowship area, I wanted to turn this concept on its head. Much like a fancy restaurant where you can see who prepares your food, I wanted you to be able to see who made your coffee. I wanted you to be able to see who put together the Sunday snacks so that you could find and thank them later. I wanted there to be an even threshold between the servers and the ones who enjoyed their service. The new design opened up the service kitchen to the fellowship hall– I wanted you to see the hand of the maker.
I want you to feel comforted by the space.
Touch the troweled walls! They are so soft. Touch the tile and note its organic, soft irregularities. I wanted to be particularly sensitive to the points at which a person would be in physical contact with the building. In the Fellowship Hall, take a seat while you help your little one fit their lid on their water cup. All the upholstery and countertop surfaces are bleach cleanable. Note that there is a tiny toilet in the nursery bathroom. I’ve endeavored to make the space user-friendly for all ages and as inviting as I could using natural materials and a cool neutral-finish pallet. It is my prayer that it is a comfort for many years to come.
JR: What spiritual joys or lessons has God given you as a result of this role you have accepted?
LL: The Lord has blessed me with this beautiful picture of waiting. Throughout this process I have often marveled over how, on an infinitely grander scale, the Lord is preparing a place for us. God in his infinite mercy and affection accounts for our frailty and even now prepares the City of God in splendor for his beloved people. It has been such a profound joy to prepare this building for her next many decades of service and think with joyful anticipation about gathering together again. What an honor it has been to participate in this tiny foretaste of His great joy in preparing Heaven for us!