Monday, April 7, 2008

The odd church

Sometimes I'll go into a church and see things that are plainly ugly. Ugly seems to be different for different people largely, I suspect, because there is regional ugliness. The churches built in 1970 in Texas may have an entirely different unsightliness than in California or Wisconsin. Here at least some buildings look as if a child was given a bucket of tan Legos and told to build a rec. center. Unbeknownst to the child a cross was later added to the top of the building and some architect was told to "Make it work." A phalanx of aging baby boomers was then brought in after the building was completed with teams specializing in macramé and cotton applique with an emphasis in rainbows and flower patterns to adorn the church walls. That, as I have said, is ugly.

The other side of ugly is more debatable. I am not a devotee of lots of gold leaf and statues antiqued to look as if they had been sitting untouched before unbelievably smokey candles. Nor do I favor the heavily stylized stone floral carvings with colors or more gilding shoved up into their crevices. Again, for some people this is exactly what a church should look like and to those people I defer to their personal taste.

When one combines ugly with unsettling I get perturbed. This weekend I went to a church (they call it a "Worship Center") in the periphery of the local Latin diocese for a meeting and found both of those.

Tabernacle: In a "reservation chapel" down the hall from the nave. Made of wood and mounted to the wall. From all accounts the chapel door is often locked.

Kneelers: None. They stand where kneeling is prescribed. This smacks of hybridism. One wonders what one does at prayer with the tabernacle shut up in a room down the hall and nowhere for a Western Catholic to kneel. Sitting in prayer? I doubt that they're standing in the orans position.

Statues or other adornments: Lots of candles. Reminded me of a Taize center. No statues. They do however (hybridism again?) have an icon of the Theotokos and a "festal icon." They have no crosses hanging unless you count the processional cross. Again I ask what the faithful look at in personal prayer. Do they walk over to the altar and squint at the icons?

I left disheartened and a tad angry. If I owned a wrecking crew company I might have accidentally scheduled a flattening for Monday, but without hardhats, yellow machinery, or a way of getting people out of the building I was impotent to intervene. At the Divine Liturgy on Sunday we accepted a new family into the church, my oldest went to confession before the iconostasis icon of Jesus, and my daughter's name day was celebrated. In short, it felt like all was right with the world.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this entry. I cannot agree with you more on the ridiculous architecture that exists. Blah. The whole mess of those meaningless buildings leave me cold. We have a beautiful cathedral in town that I will visit soon because unfortunately, all of the Catholic churches that are near me have taken their cue from the 70's liberal design of sanctuaries.

    I'm going to add you to my blog list. I feel as though I found a kindred spirit. :-)