Monday, May 5, 2014

Does the Building Matter?

Last week, I asked, "Does Dress Matter?" in regards to how we dress at church. This week, I want to look at the relevance of our buildings that (supposedly) inspire worship. Many readers know I was heavily involved in the Crystal Cathedral Ministries. My wife and I had our first kiss, got engaged, and got married on the campus (plus the last Star Trek movie was filmed there, which is awesome! :) ). But it was also regularly criticized for its opulence (okay, the women's bathroom was definitely extreme). Recently, there was an interesting post from a former critic of the building, recognizing some potential benefits of the architecture.

Yes, a lot of hungry people could have been fed with the money from building the Cathedral (and many other buildings worldwide). But how much have such buildings inspired people spiritually (and subsequently resulting in financial donations)? We'll probably never know for sure. However, I can say that these buildings have definitely inspired me over the years and helped keep me focused on the priorities of faith. This can seem ironic since the building can seem so superficial and in contrast to last week's post. But one of the things I loved about the grounds was how they emphasized a connection with nature, being able to see God all around us. The Chapel in the Sky was one of my favorite places, being able to see the surrounding community for miles, reminding me of the importance of touching all of these lives.

Extending one of the arguments from last week about the importance of making worship time different, I think the building really can do that. I've been part of congregations whose buildings are clearly churches, with stained glass windows and history built in, and those whose buildings were warehouses and looked more like theaters. I can't really imagine going back to the latter option. Part of it is in the style of worship that is too performance-driven for me now. But the other part is that those types don't feel like anything special or different. Walking into the Crystal Cathedral feels special. Walking into my current congregation's building feels special. It helps put me into a different mindset. There's a reason the Temple was to be created a certain way with increasing reverence for the increasing sanctity of the divisions, culminating in the Holy of Holies.

But I would resort back to my recommendation from last week. How about we create buildings that are meaningful to our own worship? After all, even buildings are simply social constructions (literally and figuratively). Just like dress, we shouldn't obtain a building to build our egos, but rather reorient ourselves to the reason we're worshipping.

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