"If you go back to the Middle Ages, wealthy people often had chapels in their home. But today, it's not just the wealthy that have them."

Sociologist Dr. Robert Reynolds

Furnishings with the Spirituality of a Chapel

Kelly Bingham
Standard-Examiner correspondent

Uintah, UT Oct 28, 2006 — The home is transforming from a place to eat and sleep into a self-contained society where people go to work, go to exercise, go to a movie and now go to church without stepping foot outside.

Church on demand is a new trend among Christians who fit religion into their fast-paced lifestyles by integrating church furniture into the house for home worship.

Heavenly Wood, www.heavenlywood.com, a Kaysville-based nationwide supplier of church furniture, has noticed a shift in its clientele.

"We've seen sales increase exponentially over the last two years to people wanting large wooden crosses, altars and kneelers for their living room," said David Stuart, Heavenly Wood's marketing supervisor.

"They said they wanted to worship from home in their own sanctuary."

Private home chapels aren't exactly a new home-improvement innovation.

"If you go back to the Middle Ages, wealthy people often had chapels in their home," said Robert Reynolds, a sociologist at Weber State University in Ogden. "But today, it's not just the wealthy that have them."

Canyon Road Assembly of God Senior Pastor Raymond Wead encourages devotional furnishings in the home.

"It gives a place in your home to spend time in your devotion and reading your Bible," said the pastor of the Ogden church. "Jesus and Daniel had a regular place of prayer. It's good to have a room where you can set aside for mediation."

Armand Franquelin, of South Ogden, is setting aside more than a room. He has built a 4,000-sqaure-foot "prayer house" in east Uintah for teens and adults. It opened last month.

"This house is for open prayer and for people to talk about God," he said.

The two-level house sits on a .5-acre mountainside lot. The upper level includes a spacious multipurpose area decorated with standard living-room furniture and a large-screen TV. There is a small kitchen area and a bedroom-sized chapel.

The lower level has bedrooms and a living area for the retired Catholic priest who is caring for the property.

The prayer house was financed by Franquelin's nonprofit organization, The Lady of the Utes. Inspiration for the prayer house came seven years ago while Franquelin was living in Arizona.

"I've been so disgusted by the prohibition of praying in schools," he said. "Youths were lost and didn't understand about God. So we're providing a religious alternative for high school kids."

Franquelin's vision involves providing teens a drug and alcohol free Friday night alternative. However, parental consent is required for teens under 18.

Youth activities will involve movies and religious dialogue. Though Franquelin said he is a devout Catholic, the prayer house will be nondenominational.

"There won't be specific doctrines endorsed here. This is not about getting people to become Catholic, Baptist or LDS," he said.

"This house is for youth and adults who don't know about God or have fallen out of church to learn more about God and get back to their own or another Christian church."

Monsignor Victor G. Bonnell of the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Layton approves of adorning homes with sacred objects as reminders of faith and Christ, but warns against withdrawing from public worship.

"Praying at home on a kneeler does not fulfill a Catholics' obligation to go to Mass," he said.

Stuart said Heavenly Wood's customers don't necessarily plan to eliminate church services, "although some did."

Elevation Church, an evangelical church in Layton, does not meet in a traditional church, but instead alternates holding its Sunday services between nine homes, said Pastor Trinity Jordan.

"It seems like there's this big movement in Christendom — the house church movement," Jordan said. "We embrace this new concept. We're able to put our resources to ministering to people and not to a building's expenses."

Franquelin said his home does not and will not supplant organized religion.

"No way! If you're a Christian, you have an obligation to go to church," he said. "The prayer house is not a replacement for someone upset because a church isn't organized the way they want it, or because they don't like their pastor, bishop or rabbi. If you have concerns we'll talk to you, but you need to work it out with them."