Calvary Albuquerque for the National Worship Leader Conference and I must say that from the first moment that we stepped onto the campus we were welcomed, not with people, but the environment created in their landscaping and their outdoor space.
Walking through the arches of the courtyard you are ushered down the steps of the amphitheater where the outdoor baptisty/fountain is. This terraced area provides a place for people to come and lay under the trees and rest and relax (which many in the conference did) and also an outdoor area for concerts and baptisms. What a brilliant idea. (Wednesday night I was blown away by the number of people who were bringing their lawn chairs to sit in this area and listen to the concert inside that was being broadcast outside)
The area incorporates sight, smell (lavender and rosemary bushes abound) and sound (the fountain) as well as a courtyard for people to gather and drink coffee and visit after services. It was possibly the best thought out facility that I have seen in my years of going to conferences.
It made me think "How do our facilities reflect our understanding of God's creation?" Painfully I had to acknowledge that we don't have those areas where people can connect to God's creation. In fact, we've neglected our outer areas (we have some pretty weeds now) and I can't help but think of what these intangibles say about us.
What do you think? Can the outside of the church add to the atmosphere of the experience.