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Death by Architecture

Plenty of architects would chuckle at this subject, and presume I am speaking of the profession.  But the death of which I write is the death of a religious congregation (or, I suppose, any organization) by the failure of its facility to support its mission.

I have now visited numerous churches in the Washington D.C. area in which the high Georgian architecture, and the ornate built-in woodwork, the brass lamps, and the formal altar do not support the needs of a contemporary congregation.  However, these forms have become so important to many members of the congregation, that they become a stumbling block to change.

While I am a firm believer that an ancientfuture church (see Leonard Sweet) can exist within any building, it is noteworthy that the most vibrant congregations I have know are housed in less classical buildings.  Is this simply a function of when they were built, and the average age of the residents of that neighborhood?  Or, has the building shaped them?  Or, has the building simply stayed out of the way of God's shaping of their ministry?

 It is easy to become sentimental about any building where important moments are shared.   But I would argue that there comes a point where certain buildings are so formal, carrying so much weight of tradition, that they become stifling to life and growth within.


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Reader Comments (1)

Hey buddy,

I hope you're doing well! Are you whipping the built environment of the east coast into shape?

I love traditional church buildings and have attended two churches in Indy that have traditional buildings and contemporary worship services.

I do see, however, how the love of a church building and tradition in general can be a stumbling block.

It can be a wonderful thing when tradition and innovation are allowed to co-exist.

Anyway, I need to get out their and visit.

Talk to you soon
September 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Hostetler

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