It’s an exciting time in ministry at Intermountain. It’s been 50 years since there was a dedicated chapel space for the children in residential care at Helena’s Lamborn campus. In fact, the last place dedicated for worship and learning about God was the Helen Piper Memorial Chapel in Mills Hall, which once stood on 11th Avenue across from the Capital Hill Mall. The Lamborn campus, in use since the early 1970s, has not made provision for this important aspect of the children’s care until now.

Coupled with hundreds of donor gifts both large and small, grants from local and statewide agencies have made it possible for construction to begin on Van Orsdel Commons. Named for Intermountain’s founder, Brother William Wesley Van Orsdel, and incorporating design elements that will honor the historical contribution of the Methodist Deaconesses, the Commons will serve as a place of worship, rest, and spiritual comfort for children, families and staff.

It’s my hope that it will be like a student commons on a university campus or the living room space in a family home. It is important to all of us at Intermountain that the design of this new space on campus be welcoming to all and perfect for everything from tea parties and movie gatherings to cultural education and much more. We envision the Van Orsdel Commons to serve many more purposes than to simply provide a space for worship and chapel activities and we hope to welcome our community supporters into the space very soon.

“The design process has been uplifting as we have been able to see the unbounded passion and desire of the Chaplain and staff,” Tim Meldrum, of SMA Architects, reflected. “The spaces need to be flexible, durable and inspirational all at the same time. Renovations always add an extra challenge to the ultimate success of the final design, however, design solutions for a gathering and learning place like this are especially realized when occupied by such special staff, focused administration and imaginative youth.”

Adam Senechal and Golden Eagle Construction will be responsible for executing this vision and building Van Orsdel Commons throughout the summer. “This project is special to us as we help bring the vision to life that many people have worked so hard to create. The opportunity to construct the Van Orsdel Commons is greatly rewarding and we know this building will serve the children and families of Intermountain for generations to come.” This concept of building something of worth and lasting is a theme familiar to many religious traditions.

Perhaps it is because the founder of Christianity was the son of a carpenter as well as the Son of God that we are left with a number of lessons from Jesus about building something that lasts. For instance, Jesus once told a story about two builders—one wise and the other foolish. The foolish builder built on the sand, on something shifting and changing day-to-day. The wise builder made sure what was built by his crew was firmly founded on the rock. When the rains and storms came, Jesus said, it is the house built on the rock that will stand while the one built on the sand will come crashing down.

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The spiritual meaning is as true as the practical application. Van Orsdel Commons will be built on a very firm foundation—in fact, making sure this was so was part of what has delayed the project to this point! Moreover, the foundation Intermountain and its donors will provide for families and children by ensuring there is a place for sharing the unconditional love of God and God’s guidance for right relationships through love of God, self, and others—this firm foundation will continue to set the work of Intermountain apart from others called to address the needs of hurting children and their complex psychological, emotional, and relational needs. Making this investment in our children is certainly building something of worth that will stand the metaphorical rain and storms that will come.

So today, would you lift a prayer of thanksgiving for this new and exciting time in Intermountain’s ministry? Pray for a safe and efficient building process and SMA, Golden Eagle, and Intermountain work toward a finished project. Finally, pray for all the children, families, and staff that will be blessed by the ministry that occurs within Van Orsdel Commons for years to come.

The Reverend Chris Haughee is a licensed minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church and has served as chaplain of Intermountain’s residential services since 2012. An adoptive father to two, Haughee is an advocate for greater inclusion of foster and adoptive families in the life and ministry of local congregations. A member of Helena’s Elevate Montana group (www.elevatemontana.org), you can follow his ministry at www.intermountainministry.org or contact him at chrish@intermountain.org.

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