Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

10Oct/082

Christ Church, Victoria, B.C.

We saw this church in Victoria, B.C. and it truly was amazing (and I believe God-centered and glorifying in its design). It's a pity that churches are often just like business offices or other "ordinary" places. I guess some would disagree but I think that a return to "great" architecture in church buildings is a wonderful thing. The UMC and some other denominations seems to have gone through a period of uglification in their architecture -- somehow trying to modernize or reinvent something that wasn't in need of an update. People in general seem to be less willing to spend the big bucks on churches than on other things like the poor and the needy. I know other issues can't be ignored, but worshiping God in a place like this seems to really help put things in perspective. Just like the robe, the solemnity of the service, and the order of the liturgy, the architecture seems to be a huge aid in the worship. I'm sure like all things in the Christian life and even those things in worship, it can become an idol but I have a hard time believing it's wasted money or effort. The Temple was a truly glorious place; a feeble attempt at showing the glory that will be revealed in heaven, but a worthy attempt. As Christians we carry out the creation mandate to bring order out of chaos in the world. A building like this that's built not to commemorate its long-standing members, nor to enshrine saints, but to stand as a place of worship -- a place set apart.

I know it's far, far away for our small group (and even a large and prosperous church like the above took over 100 years to get where they are), but I look forward to the beginning of such an effort.

Update: Regarding Dave's comment -- I wasn't very specific about what "like this" I think is good... I think it's architecture that reflects attributes of God and his nature. So yeah -- creative is a good thing but I think that awesome and majestic is important too... Obviously some of these characteristics are a little subjective. I hadn't really thought of it so much but Dave mentions the re-using and revitalizing of buildings; this seems perfectly to reflect the transformative power of God's Kingdom. Thanks Dave. 🙂

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  1. I agree that it seems even distracting to me that churches are so often such drab and dull buildings these days.

    I don’t know if I would say that church buildings *should* be the kind of architecture seen here, but I think they should exhibit an effort at creative design and architecture, even if it is on a smaller scale, or more modern, or whatever. I think they should display a sense of creativity and purpose, an outflow of the creative talents of the people who designed and built it, not just simply a utilitarian space that feels 1970’s soviet era chic (not to compare the church with communism, just the design style).

    I think there could also be something to churches using existing buildings (such as schools) that were built around the turn of the 20th century and have more design elegance and grandeur to them, plus it would cause them to be involved with and interact with their community more (hopefully in a helpful and responsible way).

  2. I think that it is purposeful that new churches of evangelical stripe are generally unchurchlike (in the traditional sense of churchlike). Even very expensive structures look more like community colleges or community centers than places to worship the transcendent God. I would say such architecture is a deliberate appeal to people to worship a God who is just like us (let them read Psalm 50 for a corrective view). Some folks drink coffee and eat snacks during worship. There must be a happy medium (a Golden Mean?) between needing beaucoup de $$ to build a lovely structure that reflects God’s glory and using meager amounts to build a shoddy structure. The Monthly Record (freechurch.org) has good couple of articles on some church renewal they’ve been up to. They intend to use the refurbished buildings 7 days a week for the Ministry of the Word (via preaching, Bible studies, etc.). Edinburgh has some absolutely beautiful structures. I’ve longed for an old-fashioned NE church with a sounding board, a la Jonathan Edwards. We can use crosses superstitiously, but Asian visitors to our church have asked what kind of building is it–a ballet school?–because there is no cross to clue them in! Interesting to look at ourselves from others’ perspectives.


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