Thursday, May 24, 2012

New architecture moves the church backward...

Some in Rome are wondering if the new push toward more traditionally styled church buildings may not be a step backward.  They are often folks who believe that the fruits of Vatican II were all positive and the architectural implementation of those fruits was one means of making permanent these changes.  Or maybe not...

One article very generously suggests the church did not need to erase all physical traces of its past to reform or renew itself.  The direction of this article as architectural.  In other words, a modern building can include nuances of its past while still being thoroughly modern.  This is a most generous offer.  It is logical and reasonable to assume that architectural changes would be deliberate and slow since a building institutionalizes a perspective on worship and imprisons the church to this perspective for generations.  How kind that we are now told it is okay to have small nods to our past in all the new buildings we erect for the church.  But, of course, can it be any other way?

I think that the balance should be tilted more toward the past than to the future.   That does not mean that church buildings cannot be modern.  What it does mean is that being modern does not mean ignoring or failing to acknowledge a couple of millennium of preexisting history.  Yet this seems to be the impetus behind every church building committee and on the agenda of every church architect -- how can we break every tie to the past and erect something tied to the particular moment.

The modern idea of a church building has come less from historic and religious buildings and attitude than it has the ordinary commercial space envisioned for the moment.  In fact, we often consider only the moment in shaping the image of church architecture and leave those who follow us in the years to come with buildings that are soon outgrown or require major reconstruction to be useful.  It is about time that we cast aside the idea of using the mall as the architectural model for the church  and consider a bit more the architectural form that will support and serve us over the long haul.

Industrial style may not be the worst thing to hit the church but it is far from being benign.  As long as we shape the image by borrowing from the marketplace and public square, we will also accept the idea of borrowing theological truth and moral values from the same secular world.  It may increase the church's size but it will surely kill the church in the long run...


Anonymous said...

An Altar, Pulpit, and Baptismal Font
are all you need to carry out a
ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Our individual tastes on the contours
and crevices of the building are
only distractions. 1st century
architecture was unimportant because
Christianity was illegal in the Roman
Empire. In the 21st century too
many high-church clergy worship the
church building.

John said...

Does this mean that when the architecture of a church consists of brick and mortar with a spire with cross at the top, and stained glass windows, Christ and Him crucified is preached therein?

Anonymous said...

From the article:

"anticipation of changes to the texts and texture of parish liturgical prayer has also spawned a revival of traditional-looking churches to replace the ubiquitous, Modernist structures of the previous half-century. Perhaps the same impulse within the church that has caused such changes in ritual practice as the decanting of the blood of Christ from “cup” to “chalice”—both literally and in the revised translation of the Roman Missal—is also behind the return to traditional architecture."

A step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I dunno... Personally, if one's "worship space" (anti-gag reflex initiated) begins looking more like a performing arts centre, movie theatre, or sports arena, it's time to look for a new "worship space." Give me those dark (to hide all the heresies, dontcha know!) vaulted cathedral-like church structures ANY day!

Pastor Peters said...

I cannot believe how many folks miss the point of my posts in order to focus on something peripheral. Did I say that the Word and Sacrament were not the Church? But surely you would agree that holding the Divine Service in Hooters and holding the Divine Service in an architectural setting that mirrors what is happening in the Divine Service are different in that the environment in one pulls you away from what is happening at altar and pulpit and the other keeps you focused there. That is what I am saying. FWIW the new building in which we worship is not traditional cruciform but sairly modern in style and yet it functions well because the altar, pulpit, and cross are central.

Anonymous said...

There was an interesting book out a while back called "Flesh and Stone" in which the author demonstrated how the architecture of a culture reflected that culture's view of the human body.

I think there is indeed a statement our Church buildings make about what we believe concerning both the body of Christ in the Divine Service and the Body of Christ, His Church.

While Word and Sacrament ministry may take place in any physical setting, it bothers me to see church buildings which look bland, cheap and utilitarian.

Anonymous said...

One problem with modern art and architecture is that few people understand it. Most of it is meaningless and bland. How many people would bother with a vacation to Europe if all the church buildings looked like funky office buildings or movie theatres.

Please leave the shopping mall church buildings with all the "pastors" normally critiqued by Chris Rosborough. I do not want my church to be mistaken for a non-denominational seeker-congregation. It would be much harder for a Lutheran church to hold a contemporary service if the architecture were traditional.

~~Cafeteria Lutheran