Thursday, June 15, 2017

RNS: What will future houses of worship look like?

Headlands Beach State Park, Lake County, Ohio

NIV John 4 21, 23-24  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."
Where is the best place to worship?  An old question is being asked in a new form. Architects from Catholic University and the University of Hartford asked architectural students at Catholic University to design a house of worship for millennials. Here are the results; be sure to use the handles to see them all. And read the story to understand their rational.

Some questions for discussion?

Do we need buildings for worship?  In the Old Testament high places and springs were places of worship.

Is your home a house of worship?  House churches were the earliest Christian churches; increasing it is becoming evident they were used long after public places of worship became available.

Should we have multi-use public buildings of worship? In medieval times in some places the nave was considered the responsibility of the laity and used for secular events, e.g. markets.

Multi-faith buildings for worship?  should we have buildings and places for spirituality?

Ecumenical buildings for worship? with Christian symbols but non-denominational. Non-denominational congregations are growing fast.

Some  of My Places for Worship in Lake County

My Parish Church: Several musicians are getting ready in the choir section 
This place is fairly good for worship on weekends. The acoustics were terrible before they removed some carpeting (the whole place was carpeted) and replaced it with tile. They should have removed more carpeting. There is a small chapel for daily Mass where the Sacrament is reserved. Perhaps if they used a dove shaped pix and elevated it above the risen Christ, and replaced the front pews with moveable chairs it might be a place for personal worship. I can imagine myself going there in the winter. Otherwise I would rather make the ten minute trip to Headlands.

Headlands: The Dunes Nature Preserve Area Between the Beach and the Light House
They are putting a boardwalk into this area. The board walk will have this view as you enter, and will take the path to the left. It will go out to the Lake. I hope they make it easy to get off the boardwalk and walk in the sand to the Lake. This is a quiet, off the beaten path area.

The likely view from the boardwalk in the fall when the grasses have turned brown.

The beach is on the west side of the nature area.
The Fairport harbor entrance with its lighthouse and breakwater are on the east side of the nature area.

The breakwater going out to the lighthouse has a nice row of trees. I hope they eventually build a boardwalk along that area out to the lighthouse. Now you can not get close to the light house, but I think the government auctioned it off for someone to maintain and develop it.

My Favorite Place for Liturgy

This parish is about 20 minutes from where I live
There is an artist who makes the banners for the liturgical seasons. They never repeat. This one is rather traditional. Some have been truly awesome works of art.

The baptismal font.
The pews in the nave are fixed; on the sides are interlocking moveable chairs. The slate floor helps give this place good acoustics. They have an outstanding choir, and the people sing. The liturgy is what makes this place.

The side opposite the baptismal font is where the choir sings
This picture was taken during Lent. The Eucharistic Prayer is always sung. The choir always sings hymns that the people know. The liturgies during Holy Week are magnificent but also simple. They always sing the same hymns. When I went here for the Easter Vigil, I made sure that I arrived forty minutes before time to get my favorite seat in the front of the choir area. At 20 minutes beforehand it is standing room only. You never  have to worry about getting a seat at my parish church.

The people make the Liturgy; my local Orthodox Church makes beautiful liturgy with only twenty or thirty people. They are surrounded by icons "written" by a parish member. Soon he is going to do some more; I hope to write a post about that. 

Headlands at Sunset

My favorite place for worship is Headlands


  1. There are multi-faith buildings in and near Milton Keynes, Bucks, England.

  2. The hospital in my mother's town has an all purpose chapel. It looks like a Unitarian Church. Stained glass and candles with vague religious symbols. It's quiet and peaceful. I hid out there several times.

    Yes our home is a worship space. Raber has a crucifix in every room but the bathroom, and there is always a novena candle going.

    Do we need buildings? Interesting question. Buildings have walls that keep some people outside and hidden. I think that's worth thinking about.

    Music, ugh, the perpetually vexed question. I think parishes that cannot get up decent music that doesn't should like a dirge, they should just stop it.

  3. For those who worship via liturgy, some kind of "worship space" is needed. Buildings keep out the elements, and allow for many people to come together for worship.

    For me, the best place to encounter God is in nature, so while your photos of churches leave me indifferent, I do like Jack's photos of the natural places of beauty and that is where I would head if I lived in your part of the country.

    I go to an Episcopal church with my husband, primarily because he wants to go. He likes the music - they have an excellent choir. I do like the priests there, one man and one woman. Together they are the best example of true complementarity in the church that I have personally witnessed.

    I am not a liturgy fan at all, but I go with my husband because I love him and they do have excellent liturgies as far as liturgy goes. For decades he went with me and our children to a Catholic mass, and now it's his turn. He is Protestant and never became Catholic. I never encouraged him to become Catholic, especially since I struggled with Catholicism all my life. I am now a "none" or "spiritual but not religious" - formally religious anyway. (So I am among those much mocked and sometimes even insulted by traditional believers.) The church building where we attend Sunday liturgy is very old. It is small, and has graceful and simple classical architecture. A bit too much stained glass, but it is mercifully free of statues. The simple cross, symbolic of Jesus' victory, is so much better than crucifixes - especially the more bloody ones some prefer.

    My favorite church buildings are chapels. When I feel the need to sit in a building to try to hear what God is telling me, and I can't go to a favorite natural spot, I choose a local chapel. My three favorites are the tiny Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the Washington National Cathedral, the chapel at Our Lady of Mercy church in Potomac, MD, and the small chapel that was the original church at Georgetown - the chapel at Holy Trinity parish (not the main church, which I don't much like).

    Occasionally I choose to go to a mass at the Holy Trinity chapel on a weekday, if I am in the neighborhood. If one must have formal liturgy, this is my ideal. There are usually about 10 people there. It is spoken, has a short homily that is usually decent because the priests are Jesuits, and NO MUSIC. YAY! When I want to hear music, I listen to a CD or go to a concert. My liturgical preferences are the polar opposite of Jack's, for whom a community is essential, and for whom music is essential. Jack seems to like ornate liturgy with lots of symbolism, I prefer pared down to the essentials. I have been to many Orthodox liturgies, and always leave very grateful that it is an occasional thing necessary only to participate in some family event of a close friend. It is a truism that all of us are different - and that's OK. THAT IS OK!!! Formal religion is in a tough place, because people encounter God in different ways. The civil wars break out when it comes to church services because individual differences are not respected. Some need a formal liturgy in a church with many forms of religious art, organs, etc. People fight over the music, the language to be used, the roles of priest and congregation, and almost anything else they can find to fight about. Somehow God gets lost in the wars.

    So I go to the riverbank, sit still, quiet myself, and listen. Eventually I may become quiet enough to hear God.

    I used to go to my neighborhood parish church to meditate in the afternoons when it was not usually being used for a liturgy. Then the pastor decided to pipe in music, usually chant, but aaaaargh! No silence.

  4. Barbara Brown Taylor, an ordained Episcopal priest who eventually left ministry and formal church, has written several interesting books. One is relevant to this discussion - An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. Another is called Learning to Walk in the Dark. I recommend both books to serious seekers.

    Links to photos of my local chapels.

    Holy Trinity, Georgetown

    The chapel at Our Lady of Mercy (fifth photo down on the page)

    The Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the Washington National Cathedral. Three tiny pews, usually I can be alone as few people even find it when exploring the Cathedral.

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  7. Here's a photo of the interior of my church. It's dominated by a massive crucifix and the rest of the building looks like a carpeted school auditorium ;)

    I do like architecture for its own sake but I was never good at 'talking to God' in a public building - too hard to concentrate. Jesus seemed to pray and preach a lot outside. Maybe this isn't just about where you pray but if you do it with others or alone.

    1. Actually according to Mark, the earliest gospel, he spent a lot of time preaching on the lakeshore. The Sea of Galilee is the second highest place name after Jerusalem.

      However the lakeshore was really full of docks and stuff for fishing, and the tax collectors. So not quite so idealistic.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. I honestly don't think the style of a church building matters that much. I've worshipped in just about every style you can imagine, and some you probably haven't. Of course we want a building with dignity, suitable for God's house. But that can happen in a lot of different ways. I think part of what makes us love a building are the memories and traditions we associate with it; the weddings and funerals, the reception of sacraments. Some of them have cemeteries on the premises where family members are buried.
    This month there have been some upset and unhappy people in our archdiocese, since they are closing close to a dozen rural churches. I shouldn't say they are "closing" them, they are remaining open as chapels. Which means no regularly scheduled services, but available for weddings and funerals, etc. They were established in horse and buggy days, when most people here lived on farms. That has changed, and there are no longer enough people in those parishes to keep them going. That, coupled with retirements and deaths in the clergy, led to their not being sustainable. The archbishop has said he is open to suggestions. Some things that occur to me are the possibility of weekday Communion services; liturgy of the hours services, communal rosaries. All of these are things that can be done by lay people. That would be a way to keep the parish community in contact with one another.

    1. Rural churches are not the only ones being closed. The churches in Washington County, PA, south of Pittsburgh are going through another wave of consolidation.

      Several decades ago the three parishes of Charleroi were consolidated into one. Now Charleroi and Donora are going to be consolidated. Charleroi is the place where I was baptized.

      I also learned recently that all the cemeteries of the diocese of Pittsburgh are now administered by the diocese rather than the parishes. Too much a burden for the pastors.

      Well I guess if I return to PA to live my last years I will not have a church to attend but I will still have a place to be buried! Looks like I will remain here in Lake County if I can.

  10. Here is an interesting interfaith church, dedicated in 1908. It was shared by a Catholic and a Presbyterian congregation. Pope Leo XIII granted a dispensation for the dual faith church. My grandmother was one of the teenage girls who raised funds with craft projects to build the church. Though regular services are no longer held in it, the church remains as a museum, and a witness to religious tolerance when it wasn't that common.