Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs, LA, was founded by Richard and Marilyn Beatty in 1980 with just seventeen members. Abundant Life is an interdenominational church with a full-gospel ministry. Over the years, Pastor Beatty has led the development of its strong outreach program, geared especially to serve children, teens and people in need.
17 grows to 2500!
As its congregation expanded from its pioneering group of seventeen to its current six hundred families or 2500 individuals, Abundant Life’s need for larger, permanent facilities became obvious.
Associate Pastor Don Musso recalled, “There was a lot of planning talk with many designs discussed and eliminated, for one reason or another. We finally concluded that we wanted a dome, but we also wanted flat walls.”
“We wanted a dome!”
So said Pastor Beatty. Abundant Life found its solution in a sanctuary with a Monolithic Dome built atop a stemwall that is eighteen feet high and one foot thick. This main sanctuary has a diameter of 192 feet and encompasses 28,000 square feet, with a seating capacity for 2800 worshippers.
Musso said, “We have the best of both worlds – a flat wall built in a circle and topped with a beautiful dome. The flat wall eliminates curvature that would be there if the dome began at the ground level. And, because of the dome, there are no columns so the view is never obstructed – no visual interference.”
Work on the stemwall began in April 1995, and the new sanctuary opened in June 1997.
Insurance and utilities
While it is the undisputed spiritual and physical focal point, Abundant Life’s Monolithic Dome sanctuary is only part of its 65,000-square-foot facility, valued at about four million dollars. It sits between two appendages, one housing a lobby, nursery, meeting room and music room, and the other with offices and a kitchen.
Since the sanctuary is virtually fireproof, insurance on the entire facility runs only about $10,000 per year.
Musso said, “Our utilities average about $2000 per month. That’s a real bargain. Even in our summer heat, utilities for those months are only about $2900. Our sanctuary naturally remains cool.”
The dome’s thermostat remains set during all of winter, yet Musso does not recall the heat actually ever going on. He said, “The sanctuary is never cold.”
About the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)
While the administrators at Abundant Life are pleased with their utility bills, David South, president of Monolithic, said, "Their air conditioning system is over-designed. They have approximately 65,000 square feet of sanctuary and 180 tons of air conditioning. Unfortunately, to determine the cooling system size, their HVAC engineers consulted only their bible, the ASHRAE Guide (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers, Inc.).
“But the ASHRAE has no experience with Monolithic Domes. The cooling bill for Abundant Life Church runs $1000 to $1500 per month. Working backwards from the actual cooling load, it’s easy to see they had over-designed by at least double, if not triple. Experience with conventional structures calls for one ton of cooling per 333 square feet. But our experience with Monolithic Domes proves that is far too much air conditioning.”
A not-a-biggy problem
Musso said, “The only problem we’ve had has been with mildew. We take care of that by having the dome power sprayed with a bleach solution about twice a year. That’s not a biggy.”
“Our dome is incredible,” he concluded. “It’s something to see; we’re really happy with it.”
After Katrina devastated much of Louisiana, David South contacted Pastor Richard Beatty of Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana. That community lies just northeast of Baton Rouge.
When asked how their Monolithic Dome church weathered the storm the pastor said, “The church is fine. It is so wonderful to have the dome. We are so happy to have such a building to keep us safe during times like these.”
Pastor Beatty reported that 45% of New Orleans residents moved to Baton Rouge and the surrounding area was extremely busy. Abundant Life was using their church to serve evening meals to more than 300 hurricane survivors.
Note: Article originally printed in Monolithic’s Winter 1998 Roundup. Prices quoted are from 1995-1998.