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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Sacred Settings

Is there any better place to gather, learn and grow than in a house of worship?

Churches, synagogues and other religious sites provide sanctuary and a sense of peace, which makes them ideal for religious meetings. The features that make these sites reverent and reflective also encourage productivity. The features that make them welcoming and inclusive also make them hospitable. And the love poured into their foundations makes them inspiring venues.

Here are five religious sites across the country that make good venues for religious meetings.

Christ Cathedral

Garden Grove, California

Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove rises to a reflective, shimmering point against the blue skies of southern California. It was originally known as the Crystal Cathedral, apt as its exterior is composed of more than 10,000 glass panels. Inside, ceilings rise 130 feet, giving the house of worship its modern and otherworldly feel.

This architecturally impressive church also hosts meetings and events.

“Christ Cathedral is a one-of-a-kind experience,” said Heather Schraeder, director of hospitality and events at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. “It has stunning architecture in very serene surroundings that provide a picturesque backdrop for an event.”

Around the 34-acre campus, a variety of meeting and event spaces offer comparable architectural splendor, including a cultural center, the Tower of Hope and an arboretum. The five-floor cultural center features a 299-seat theater; an atrium, for up to 120; a patio for 500 banquet-style; and a boardroom for up to 25. The Chapel in the Sky, on the 13th floor of the Tower of Hope, has panoramic views and room for up to 80 people.

Planners have a choice of six approved caterers. The cathedral provides basic audiovisual equipment and has a third-party vendor for more complicated audiovisual needs.

The Life Christian Church

West Orange, New Jersey

Completed in 2017, the campus in West Orange, New Jersey, where The Life Christian Church resides was a labor of love for its congregation. Buildings on the spacious, serenely landscaped property have clean lines and modern finishes and make good use of natural light. Around 1,000 members attend this nondenominational church. It’s also an exceptional space for meetings, events and conferences.

“One of the values of our church is hospitality,” said Kevin McCollum, executive director of finance at The Life Christian Church. “So, when we’re hosting a conference or event, that’s a focus for us — hospitality, from the way it looks to the atmosphere to how it feels to how they’re treated.”

The church’s primary large event space is its auditorium, with seating for 650, a stage and state-of-the-art sound and video. The Glass Room, a glass-enclosed space with a capacity of 60, is adjacent to a hospitality lounge, and both can be joined to form a larger space. The church’s conference center  can seat up to 340 attendees theater-style or 200 at banquets.

While there is no commercial kitchen, the church allows a choice of outside caterers, and the on-site café can serve coffee and light fare for an additional charge. The church provides staff to help with audiovisual needs, event planning, and cleaning and maintenance.

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El

Highland Park, Illinois

Overlooking Lake Michigan in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El is a Conservative Jewish synagogue. The sanctuary was completed in 1964 and is known for its circular shape. The campus also includes an opulent 1911 mansion, which houses the synagogue’s library, classrooms and a smaller sanctuary. The larger sanctuary’s distinctive architectural features include unusual window shapes, colored glass and a large and intricate ark.

The synagogue’s campus offers many event spaces. The Harold and Ruby Blumberg Auditorium has 19-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the garden and Lake Michigan. The auditorium can seat up to 300 people banquet-style but can be expanded with movable walls to accommodate up to 450. A patio behind the auditorium can also be used for events.

The sanctuary can seat up to 375, and the synagogue’s mansion has several smaller meeting room, including the Maxwell Abbell Library, which can seat 20; an activity center, which can accommodate 70 to 120; and a seminar room for 60. Planners have a choice of caterers, though there is a fee for using outside catering companies.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church

Tempe, Arizona

In the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Arizona, the Holy Spirit Catholic Church was founded in 1973, but its congregation has been worshiping in its current building since 2001. The chapel’s design blends arches, high ceilings, stained-glass windows and intricate ceiling detailing to create an elegant and reverent space for worship. The church acts as a community gathering space and frequently hosts events such as picnics, fairs and family events.

The spacious campus includes the main church building, a community center, several classrooms and a smaller social hall, as well as a garden, courtyard and  large parking lot. Hanley Hall, in the community center, is an elegant space with a 1,200-square-foot dance floor and a capacity of 300. It is equipped with a projection screen and a staging kitchen. The Social Hall, which can accommodate 100 people, is a more intimate space. Classrooms on the campus accommodate from 10 to 12 attendees.

A staff member assists with events, and although the spaces have rental time minimums and maximums, the church allows advanced set-up for DJs, floral arrangements or photography.

Our Lady of the Lake

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Set on a sprawling, 40-acre campus in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church was founded in 1969. It has changed locations three times, and its current location offers plenty of space for its congregation as well as for meetings and events. One of its larger spaces, added during an expansion, is the largest event venue in Sumner County.

“The church is really pretty,” said Jennifer Harris, communications coordinator for the church. “It’s nicely updated, has a covered portico and ample parking. It has a lot to offer for a church venue.”

Our Lady of the Lake’s largest space is the 9,260-square-foot St. Joseph Hall. It is equipped with a full-service commercial kitchen and state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities. A smaller social hall, 3,250-square-foot Bevington Hall, also has a catering kitchen and audiovisual services.

The church allows planners to select outside caterers. Unlike many other churches, Our Lady of the Lake allows beer and wine to be served at events. They can provide tables and chairs as part of the venue rental and offer an on-site event coordinator for the day of an event.