Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Diocese of Kansas City priest on Church Architecture

Fr. Paul Turner, St. Munchin Church, at St. Aloysius in Maysville, MO (diocese of Kansas City) (2006)
Still, very few congregations have had the courage to say something more theological: “We need to retire our old building because it does not permit us to celebrate the new liturgy in its fullness.” [22] They will consider major surgery, but they may discover that the patient is beyond repair. Some buildings need to be retired because the sanctuary is too remote, the acoustic is too bad, communion under both forms is too difficult to administer, and the area outside the church is too small for the liturgy’s ancillary rites and processions.
It has fallen to this generation to do something about it. Never before in the history of Catholic architecture has the church been faced with such a profound dilemma. .. Not to change our building may seem as though it honors the past, but it handicaps the present and hobbles the future. This old church has served us well, but history has selected our generation to make a difference in architecture that will help future generations pray. Centuries from now, people will look back on us and thank us for having the courage to change the course. Because we did, we enable our children and grandchildren to engage in all that Catholic worship has to offer.” Our generation needs to say that.

That was then. This is now. We have electricity. We don’t need windows. We don’t need resonance. We have sacrificed what nature offers and created basement churches illuminated by neon and carpeted with polyesters. Some people blamed the new mass for the loss of a sense of sacred and the poor quality of prayer in many of our churches. But we have new technologies, and we have not always employed them well. The new mass probably rescued us from becoming completely lost in a world of artificial light and sound.
Many nondenominational seeker churches are finding success through an aggressive use of electrically produced sound and light. Big screens allow thousands of people to watch small actions; electronic music raises the decibels and the heart rate. Far from resisting artificial light and sound, some churches are diving into it, and they are succeeding in drawing numbers and fulfilling the spiritual needs of many people. Catholic churches have resisted this movement, often with a lame and ecumenically offensive excuse such as “It’s too Protestant.” What should drive our liturgy is not what makes us different from other Christian believers whose baptism we should revere; rather, what should drive our liturgy is the kind of incarnational piety that gives the Catholic Church its juice.

The people are ministers. Everyone has a part to play…But let’s face it, for centuries we have distanced people from participating at mass; we are only now inviting them to take a stronger role in singing and praying. But if we use the old models of church architecture, we can expect the old models of Catholic behavior to endure.

1 comment:

Garry said...

There is a new web site on another location for the Land of Midian and Red Sea (yam suf) crossing location. See =

Thank you for your consideration!