Tuesday, June 06, 2006

THOUGHTS ON OLD CHURCH BUILDINGS

This past Sunday afternoon, my wife and I decided to take a little R&R. So after making arrangements to leave the evening service in the capable hands of Bro. Jim Core, and inviting our friends (Louie and Cathy Human) to go with us, off we went to St. Augustine, Fl.

St. Augustine is the nation's oldest city and a popular tourist spot. The city was named for... you guessed it! Augustine, bishop of Hippo and one the heroes of those of us who love the doctrines of grace.

On Sunday evening, we went to the Ancient City Baptist Church. We didn't know anything about the church, so we didn't know what to expect. However we were greatly blessed as we heard the pastor, Dr. David Rice,preach an expository sermon on the 31st Psalm.

On Monday morning, we took one of the trolley tours through the old part of the city.At one point we got off the trolley and walked through the Memorial Presbyterian Church. This church was estabished in 1824 and the present building was dedicated to the glory of God on March 16th 1890.

I am always impressed by these old church buidings. The architecture, design, and lay-out say so much about the congregation and their leaders' perception of God as well as their attitude toward worship.

The sanctuary of this particular church is arranged in the shape of a cross. The the pulpit is to the right side while the lecturn (where the Bible is always present and always open, and from which it is read) is in the center, indicating the centrality of the Word of God. These are subtle, or not so subtle indications of the focus of the original planners and builders of this edifice. No expence was spared in their efforts to make it beautiful, for they obviously believed that the God they intended to worship in this place, deserved the very best they could give Him.

Although there was no congregation in attendance on a Monday morning, no choir singing praises, nor was there one reading or preaching the Word; there was no doubt about the purpose for which this building was designed. Just to walk in and look around, you know that this place is meant for the worship of a high and holy God.

This is a far cry from the design of many of our modern church buildings. Some are more reminiscent of a movie theater or a play house than a place of worship. Some congregations build a gymnasium that they use all week as a recreational center. On Sunday they retract the basketball hoops, set out the folding chairs, and bring in the portable pulpit and PRESTO! It's a church! This too speaks volumes about the congregation's view of the worship of God. The testimony of their design and architecture can be boiled down to this: They deserve the best and God gets what's left. It often appears, to me at least, that it is more about pragmatism, seeker friendliness, and great fun than about worshiping the God of the Bible.

I am not so naive as to believe that all congregations that meet in circumstances like those described above are failing to worship God. Nor do I believe that every congregation meeting in a perfectly desingned edifice is truely worshiping God. There is much more to true worship than just the design of the building in which we meet. However, the way we arrange our worship space does say something about us and our view of God.

12 comments:

Jeremy Weaver said...

My thought's exactly! I wish I had thought about posting a rant against hexagonical church buildings.

Garry Weaver said...

Hexagonical? What's that? does it have something to do with this being 6-06-'06?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Lots of modern Church buildings have six sides. It makes me angry. It wouldn't surprise me if the Anti-Christ came form a six-sided Church.
Quick!!! Somebody count the sides on Saddleback!!!

ThirstyDavid said...

You're absolutely right. Give me a church with a steeple, a real bell, stain-glass windows, and pews. You can have your shopping malls, theatres, and ski chalets.

I am in favor of pew cushions. Does that make me a compromiser?

Steve Weaver said...

Good post, Dad! I agree that a church's architecture communicates much about our view of God. As R.C. Sproul says, "All art forms communicate."

Jeremy - There are six letters in Warren!

David - That's not what makes you a compromiser. It is your compromising!

stauf46 said...

So, Garry, if someone leaves your church on Sunday and says, "I really feel like I was in church today," do you take it as a compliment or a criticism? How would the average "seeker" pastor respond?

Great post!

Terry

P.S. Did you bid on the Chevelle? There's a great red and white '55 listed on EBay now too!

D.J. Cimino said...

Best post I have read all week!

:)

Garry Weaver said...

terry,
1.When someone tells me that they feel like they have been to church as they are leaving, I don't feel complemented or criticized. I am mostly saddened because I fear that they have missed out on true worship. Their response reveals that they may have been emotionally stirred, but probably does not mean that they have been made to stand in awe of God.

2.I think the average seeker friendly pastor would probably say, "Mission accomplished."

3.No, I didn't bid on the Chevelle because it appears that the owner wants actual money for it. I am looking for a good old chevy in excellent condition that someone would like to give to a good home. It's sad to say this, but most of those guys on e-bay are just in it for the money.

Garry Weaver said...

Thirstydavid,
Since I got to be an old guy, my belly has gotten big and my body part that directly comes in contact with the pew has gotten small, a padded pew is a necessity not a compromise.

Garry Weaver said...

D.J.
Thanks for the nice words, but be honest, this is the 1st post you've read all week. Right?

Joe said...

I used to live in St. Augustine and enjoyed the reminders. Thanks!

By the way, in response to Thirsty David, I used to be a supporter of pews and actually voted against getting rid of ours in favor of cushioned chairs.

Boy was I wrong. The chairs, which the rest of the congregation voted FOR, are very comfortable.

I can fall asleep in anybody's sermon in those things!

Anonymous said...

As an architect who was born to missionaries who served in Europe, I really appreciate that you took note of an architecture that seeks to clearly glorify God in its every detail. Part of why Christ's claims over all creation is not heard today is because Christians have lost a vision for the Lordship of Christ in every arena, including architecture. If you have interest, I welcome furhter discussion on this topic.
Daniel Lee www.DanielLeeArchitect.com