Published May 10, 2012
On May 6, after the young people of Our Lady of the Mountains Church received the sacrament of confirmation, the parishioners gathered to dedicate their newly built youth center, followed by a picnic on the grounds. The dedication of the youth center marked the completion of more than two years of work to conceptualize, find an architect, raise the money, and build this beautiful landmark.
The Youth Center was paid for, not only by the parishioners, but also by the wider community in Jasper, who gave generously towards its completion.
The pastor of Our Lady of the Mountains, Father Charles Byrd, wanted an iconic building as the youth center, one that could be built behind the parish church and have its own identity. He proposed a building that from the outside would look like a weathered barn (barns don’t have to match their accompanying farmhouses). Subsequently, Our Lady of the Mountains retained the services of residential designer Mitchell Ginn, whose southern roots run deep, and who is known for his understanding of traditional American architecture. Ginn designed an “old” building that would look at home in North Georgia, as if it had been here for a hundred years.
The parish calls this new youth center “The Barn.” The contractor who oversaw its construction was Custom Design Builders, Inc. of Alpharetta.
The Barn has a generously proportioned porch large enough to cover picnic tables. Inside the main level are more tables for serving or dining, and off to the right is a large informal gathering space. The left side of the main level has a traditional kitchen and two restrooms (including showers for the occasional lock-in).
Upstairs are two big classrooms where high school students gather for religious education. In between the two classrooms are the youth minister’s office and a faculty restroom. Downstairs the basement includes storage and enough room for a large classroom that the parish hopes to complete in the future for middle school students.
The generously proportioned rooms of the interior are bright and full of character, painted in warm and welcoming colors. Each room has touches throughout to continue the theme of an old barn, with windows looking out to beautiful views of the nearby surrounding mountains. Numerous inspirational messages and images are included to help teach and reinforce the Catholic faith. The Barn even has its own owl (albeit plastic) because every barn needs an owl.
The exterior is board and batten with the look of unpainted wood turned grey with age. Fieldstones form the foundation, and flagstone pavers are used under the porch to make the Barn seem old beyond its years.
A “budded cross” above the main entrance is designed to recall the first Catholic colonists to Maryland whose descendents moved to Georgia after the American Revolution and laid the foundations of the Catholic Church in this state. Atop the cupola is an angel weathervane representing the Archangel Michael who appeared over the threshing floor in Jerusalem. The parish places its youth under the protection of St. Michael, so that they may be strong in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Built primarily for youth, the Barn will also be a place that serves many within the parish community (as a staging area for barn dances and parish picnics, Halloween festivals, gatherings for home-school groups, adult or couples’ retreats, youth lock-ins, adult Bible studies, as well as ministry gatherings, just to name a few). It will be used in many great ways over the generations to come.
The Christian scriptures remind those who believe not to store up for earthly treasures, but rather to be more attentive to the things that last into eternity. Father Byrd said, “It is our hope that the Barn stands as a symbol of our commitment to our young people, whom we value and invest in most, for they and their faith are the future, not just of the Church, but of the world.”
He added, “I am so proud of this parish, and I am deeply grateful to all those worked so hard and gave so generously for the construction of the Barn.”