08 April 2008

Last Night, the Columbia Community Changed

Last night the Wilde Lake Village Board, serving as the Wilde Lake Architectural Committee, reversed an earlier resident committee’s recommendation and approved the architectural style of a 48-foot tall church (that’s almost five floors high) with a 16-foot cross facing Wilde Lake residents and traffic on Twin Rivers Road.

Up until last night, it was the practice in Columbia (for more than 35 years) that Interfaith Centers did not have any religious symbols on the exterior of the buildings on New Town property. Promotional material from the early days of Columbia stated “You will be glad to know that people come before buildings in our Columbia Religious efforts.”

The evening featured a powerpoint presentation demonstrating the prominence of many corporate logos that are visible in the vicinity, to include the Columbia Association logo in downtown, the Exxon gas station at Banneker Road, and the Melting Pot restaurant in the Wilde Lake Village Center. The presentation concluded with the picture zooming in on the Wilde Lake logo on the Slayton House building.

This was followed by many people speaking out, in 3-minute bites, and relating their difficulty in finding the church in the current interfaith center. Some stated it took hours to find the church, others weeks, and one who stated months. Another participant stated that having churches without religious symbols was akin to taking the names of schools off the exterior of the surrounding school buildings.

After the decision was rendered, I heard many people quietly saying, “It’s not an Interfaith Center anymore, it’s a Christian Center,” as they departed the meeting room.

Regardless, in the near future, Columbia will be a different place. The magnitude of this difference will be hard to measure. Is this “new street sign” different? 22-story condo tower different? I believe it probably depends on who you are and what your perception of interfaith was. In the end, it is a difference, and it should be noted.

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