07 April 2008

If You Build It, They'll Still Overuse the Reference

Unchurched Prefer Cathedrals Over Contemporary Church Buildings:

A few years ago, I listened to Brian Walsh speak what may as well have been extemporaneously— he was presenting a hastily written paper to fill in for a missing presenter— on architecture and worldview. I think I still have the notes and the doodles somewhere.

It was the first time I'd seriously considered architecture in religion, Christianity in particular. I realized how much it bothered me to walk into most modern churches, especially in the relatively impoverished area where I grew up. These were no contemporary megachurches, but they nevertheless embraced practicality over beauty.

It says something to a newcomer who sees plastic flowers on the walls, funeral home carpeting and colors, and fake brass. In an attempt to make visitors feel welcome, they're pushed away, perhaps sensing a certain insincerity.

The difference, I would suggest, in contemporary church architecture and that of the cathedrals, is intent. In our time, churches are intended to attract the unchurched. Cathedrals, I think, were not.

Which is better? To create a building with the intent to make the unchurched feel welcome, or create a building expressing your religion's deepest beliefs? Is it possible for the unchurched to walk into the second type of building and feeling uncomfortable, but nevertheless welcome? Why is it that denominations who make use of cathedrals are, on the whole, dwindling?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how do you know that cathedrals weren't built with some intent to attract the unchurched? this is when a DeLorean would come in handy.