Throughout history, houses of worship have been defined by their architecture.

Catholic churches boast a grand and long nave for parishioners, with chapels jutting off the side.

Synagogues tend to have styles in vogue at the place and time of construction, but always feature a holy ark, or specially constructed box, where the Torah is kept.

Mosques feature domes and ornamental indentations filled with tiles within the walls of the building.

But in recent history, Christian churches have opened their doors to share their buildings with other faiths of other denominations.

The Calvary Baptist Church in Darien is one such church.

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Roughly five years ago, Calvary Baptist welcomed Encounter Church, a relatively new nondenominational church started by the Rev. Landon Reesor and his wife.

Encounter Church was created eight years ago, after Reesor said he and his wife Christy felt they had a calling to move to metropolitan New York and start a new church. They operated out of a building in downtown Stamford for three years before moving to Darien.

As Reesor and his wife were settling into Darien in a variety of town organizations, they were offered the chance to move into the Calvary Baptist Church, which was constructed in 1920.

"This has been a great relationship," Reesor said. "It's been fantastic. They've more than hosted us, they've really partnered with us."

The two churches, though different in their dynamics, have worked together on a variety of projects, such as vacation bible school during the summer. Christy teaches the children's ministry class at Calvary Baptist on the weekends.

Reesor said the church has considered having its own independent building "down the road," but for the time being is "very grateful" for the space they have been given. Encounter pays rent to Calvary Baptist to operate in the space at 988 Post Road.

Scheduling is easy for the two organizations. Sunday mornings are reserved for the Baptist parishioners, and the evening is for Encounter.

Housing two different intangible faiths inside one tangible church is not a new concept. Some churches have been operating under a "shared campus" for more than 40 years, such as the Madison Christian Community in Wisconsin.

The shared campus approach has a variety of benefits, not only to the churches, but also the community in which they operate, according to ChurchFuture.com, a church consulting company.

"It cuts facility-related expenses by almost half for each congregation and saves additional dollars with shared office and programs," according to its website. "It removes most of the time-consuming facility issues from the church council agendas so the councils can focus on more important matters. A shared campus allows volunteers to devote more time on mission and less on maintenance. It shows the community that Christians can work together ecumenically and it helps local government by taking less property off the tax rolls. A shared campus cuts the environmental impact of the congregation by almost half. Shared campus congregations also report stronger youth programs due to the additional critical mass."

Shared campuses can be traced back as far as 1872 in Pennsylvania, according to ChurchFuture.com.

Because of the contrasting schedules for Calvary Baptist and Encounter, the relationship between the two organizations has "worked out very well" and there have not been any challenges, Reesor said.

"We felt it was a great chance to make a deeper impact here in Darien," Reesor said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews