NewScoop is excited to use the online platform Zoom to host conversations about the creative edges of our culture. We are partnering with The Flourishing Congregation Institute, Ambrose University to host a series of conversations for those within the Christian Tradition who are rediscovering and updating their role in our society. Check out this series and register here: Thrive or Survive, Faith Communities in Canada
“The Church is people, not buildings” is true – to a point. But does that, therefore, mean that church buildings are incidental to the fulfilment of the Church’s mission? The suggestion that the built environment resides in the realm of the pragmatic or functional alone belies an underlying gnostic persuasion; a conviction that the material world is at best unnecessary and at worst, an encumbrance to more critical spiritual realities such as the mission of the church. Even some of the Reformers such as Ulrich Zwinglil believed that nothing of any spiritual good or value could be transmitted through the material world.
But I would argue that the material world must be incorporated into our consideration of the church’s mission in the 21st century. Redemption provided through the gospel does not exclusively target the souls of humankind. The cosmos is in need of God’s divine intervention and redemption as much as the spiritual dimension of humanity. The material world matters. Such a conviction should be reflected in the attention we give to human geography, to the built environment, and in particular the places in which we worship and minister as the church.
Every building speaks. But just like oral language the message intended by a speaker is not always received or interpreted accurately by the receiver. The challenge of course is that we do not all speak the same architectural vernacular and our interpretation codes are consistently influenced by our past experiences, culture and personal preferences. We must not be surprised, disappointed or frustrated if the exterior and/or interior of our buildings do not solicit the kind of response originally anticipated. That may simply indicate that our message been couched in a language (architecture) not understood by those we are hoping to attract. Regardless, our buildings are never silent; they are always communicating something. It would be to our advantage, therefore, not only to be clear on the intention of our architectural message, but the interpretation of it as well.
If these reflections and questions are of interest to you, join us for the online conversation, Church Buildings Speak: What is your Building Saying? on November 29 at 12:00pm.