Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Architects must have supernatural powers

It is very, very rare that you see anything written about the architecture of churches. And of those rare instances, the writer will refer to the actual buildings as churches. So they're off track from the get-go.

There was an article written last month in the Associated Baptist Press that re-kindled my desire to write about this subject.

To start with, I agree with a lot of what they are saying - so much is being written and discussed about the trend for what's called the "emerging church" and how it is leaning back towards more traditional elements (liturgy, art, music, aesthetics etc) as young people want to feel more connected to the last 2000 years of Christianity. It goes to that whole idea of rootlessness that is so prevalent. I love the idea (mentioned in the article) that regionalism begins to inform the form of the architecture - where it can be more about the place and immediate culture of the people who worship there - rather than a copy of something else, or try to look like it could be anywhere.

Interesting how the article talks about American church architecture trying to be opposite of European - I hadn't considered that before. There's this demand from younger (20/30 yr olds) for something real & for there to be solid reasons for why we do what we do, and to be part of smaller congregations. That seems to be a trend (even see it in "starbuck's" culture - this longing for community). Lots of young pastors are reading "The Younger Evangelicals" by Bob Weber and other books trying to understand/categorize/disect the emerging church and if there is a shift from modern evangelicalism of the mid-late 20th century then we will probably early in the conversation. I'm not sure we'll ever see a full swing back to the kind of symbolism you see in European churches, but definitely a desire for everything we do to have a reason/purpose/deeper meaning. That allows the building to communicate more consistently.

I disagree strongly with these statements though: "It's God's calling card -- it's all he has," said Texas architect Tim Blonkvist. "People are going to make an evaluation based on what they can see before they hear anything." Where does that idea come from?!?! Scripture says "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God." The new testament only mentions buildings 2 or three times, and in all cases is talking about spiritual buildings made up of people themselves. This guy is putting words in God's mouth to say that buildings are such an essential way that God communicates - that idea doesn't come from scripture at all. Not to say that buildings shouldn't agree with what the church is saying, but this guy is going a lot farther than that. And un-churched post moderns (people 30 & younger) are less and less likely to just try out a church on a drive by - they are more likely to go if someone invites them (see next comment)...

And with this: "Whether they speak with bold clarity or subdued elegance, church buildings are often the most prominent and persistent gospel message their non-Christian neighbors encounter." That makes me very nervous... we're finding more and more (B'ham, Seattle, New York, Greenville SC) that non-Christians really pay attention to how their Christian friends/neighbors treat them. If they don't feel that Christians love & care for them for being just who they are - rather than as prospective targets for evangelization - they they will never give Christians the time of day. They hear the gospel in that way loud and clear. I'm not sure how a building can preach a gospel message. In fact I think it's impossible that a building could alone communicate the gospel. It can be inviting for sure, but that is limited.

How great would it be if regionalism and green/stewardship ideas could inform the way we design buildings for churches. I would bet our clients will be slow in moving towards this trend (as compared to other parts of the country), but it would be great if they would start to recognize it! Regionalism is definitely biblical - you see throughout Acts how Paul planted churches all around the Mediterranean, and how he would adjust based on the culture of the place. Finding a "regionalism" for Alabama would be difficult though... we've been dropping far-away styles like "tudor", "french country", and "georgian" into the Birmingham landscape for so long that you have to look really hard to see anything that really has grown out of this place. A local/regional architecture would definately have to speak to the values of the people here somehow (that could be interesting).

We'll see if anything begins to shift...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

first post

Things take a long time. Things move slowly. Conversations begin and trail off, then pick up again. We plant seeds in the ground and then 4,6, 8 months later we enjoy the fruit of the plant. We are in process, a slow one. Change creeps. At times it feels like we're not moving at all. I wonder about what Jayber Crow recollected that the seemingly zig-zag path of progress we make is more like a very straight line when viewed from near the end of one's life. Will I see it that way when I'm 75 years old?

Now, I'm going to use this blog to work out some stuff with myself. It will deal with among other things:

the church (capital C and lower case c)
how those previous two things relate and don't relate
family & friends
the city, community & place
things I'm reading about and learning about
growing things (in the ground)
weeding (the garden and my soul, as Krys refers to it)

So we'll see where this thing goes.