Thursday, August 23, 2007

Supermarkets for worshipping in

Damian Thompson has a post on his blog about the re-ordering of a Church near the Catholic Herald office, there are dozens of comments.

The Cafeteria is Closed has a whole series of photographs of new Churches in an American diocese. they aren't much different from the the rather dull examples of modern ecclesiastical architecture one sees in England.
For me they all seem to speak of the mundane, of the dull, of boring. A Church used to be a proclamation of faith, a theological statement in brick or stone. They were built to last because there was a sense that the "spiritual temple, not built of stones" would endure. What these buildings speak of to me is impermanence. The can serve as Churches today, but tomorrow will be Tescoes or a carpet warehouse, or a garage.
Their architects, and those who commissioned them, seem to want them to disappear into the landscape. They apologise for their existence. they crave anonymity, they refuse any distinct Catholic identity. They could be a Church of any denomination, or a mosque, or a temple or indeed a supermarket. If they have a theology to express it is one out of harmony with what they Church has had to proclaim since the time it emerged from the catacombs.
From their exteriors at least there is no raising of mind and heart to God, one presumes the interiors are much the same and so too what goes on inside.


pelerin said...

I almost wish you had not pointed us to the Damian Thompson article! To see the two pictures is so sad - but it is heartening to see so many people caring and commenting there. Your own comment on the fact that churches today can have other uses brought to mind one of the 'chapels' in lourdes which is used by both English and German pilgrims. A stark rectangular hall with a table for an altar in front of which was the ubiquitous huge flower arrangement. The Blessed Sacrament had been placed in what I can only call a 'tall-boy' painted with orange sploges. when I returned later for a talk given there it had indeed been turned into a lecture hall - the screen was now ON the altar, flowers moved behind, everyone chatted and nobody genuflected. To be fair the sanctuary light was minute on the 'cupboard' and all those attending were French who of course would have attended Masses in the magnificent Basilica of the Rosary or the extraordinary underground Basilica which although stark is surprisingly moving. Another talk I went to there was in another chapel/lecture hall so there are now dual purpose chapels in existance!

Anonymous said...

I have given up getting exercised by hideous Catholic architecture and 're-orderings' because there is comparatively little that can be done about them. The reality is that this is what the majority of bishops, priests and the laity are content with in this country and only relatively few care one way or the other. Few any longer know the difference between beauty and ugliness because ugliness has for a long time been presented as beautiful. Take St Mary Magdalene's, Brighton, for instance. It is an objectively ugly mid-Victorian Gothic church, over-ornamented and of bad scale, but some would consider it beautiful. It isn't. The days of real grief are long over and people have, upon the whole, got used to what they have. But this points to a greater reality that concerns the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. For the rank and file this is a futile motu proprio that will hardly affect them. They are content with what they have, the extraordinary rite will remain unsaid and unknown in the majority of churches and the document, like most that comes from Rome, will be ignored. This is the present position of the Church in England, backed up to the hilt by the Bishops' Conference and there is little that can be done about it. The despoilation of St Joseph's, Bunhill Row, is par for the course.

Anonymous said...

When looking for the Catholic Church in an unfamiliar town, I often say to whoever is in the car with me, "That's ugly enough to be one of ours." And I'm mostly right.


John said...

I have seen both of these blogs on this topic. I remember a comment which appeared when the new "cathedral" at Los Angeles was opened. It said that it had been built with the purpose in mind that when the diocese was finally forced to pay up over the abuse scandals, it would be very easy to sell off as a supermarket because so little would need to be done to it in order to turn it over to its new use.


Andrew said...

Father, I think that the outward form, the architecture of the Church building, actually points to an inner malaise, a problem of conceiving what God is like.

If we conceive of a God as the Author of Beauty, worthy of reverence and the best that human hands can offer, then we build a temple to His glory accordingly. But looking at the monstrosities that masquerade as Catholic Churches these days, one has to wonder Who the pastors who commissioned it conceive God to be.

I understand that not all small rural parishes can build their own Notre Dame, but here's a solution I propose to get around the problem in the tradition of the Church builders of old.

gladys heenan said...

Anon1 makes valid points. The reordering of Leeds Cathedral is an expensive mess.

What is interesting is that Roach is reordering the original disastrous reodering by Dwyer who, unlike most modern prelates, actually had brains but seemingly no taste.

Roach has carried out this project in the full knowledge that a MP was imminent. The sanctuary makes no topographic sense and is dominated by a preposterous cathedra. Why was 5 million dollars spent by a man with no qualification in liturgical architecture?

Yet, because it is knew, criticisim is muted. Bizare. Within 25 years people will be laughing at it.

Paulinus said...

The aliens have landed.

Gretel Kung said...

In comparison with much recent work in Catholic churches and cathedrals in Britain the new work in Leeds Cathedral is a noticeable improvement. Imagine what it would have been like if Austin Winkley's scheme had been carried out. Gladys's point, however, betrays a level of unreality that has captured the minds (!) of her school of thought since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. Some appear to think that, at the stroke of a pen, the developments of the last forty years, good and bad, have been excised and the Church is back to what it was in 1958. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Anonymous 1 writes, the implementation of the Motu Proprio will be marginal in these islands, and I suspect elsewhere. For the majority it is a matter of indifference. Cf, too, the Archbishop of Glasgow's reaction on the diocesan website; it points to a harsh reality. If you want further proof of this log in to the New Liturgical Movement's excellent website and read the two latest postings by Shawn Tribe and Jeffrey Tucker which concern the Church in Germany and the United States. On a limited scale what prevails there prevails in the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly the new work at Leeds will date, everything does, but it points to a far higher standard, with infinitely greater sympathy to the building, than the deplorable example of St Joseph's, Bunhill Row, that has inspired this post.

Moretben said...

It seems obvious that the root of all this is the mentality conjured by the phrase "worship space". Note the implicit shift of emphasis from Worshipped to worshippers; the explicit definition of the church as the locus of human activity (where we "do liturgy"), rather than the Temple of God's living presence; hence, a consciously worked-out project of de-sacralisation (typified by the coffee bar at the back of the nave, the pastel-coloured wall-to-wall carpets, the Ikea seating). It's yet another aspect of the "neo-protestant" turn, according to which the concept of the church as Temple and Sanctuary, pre-figured by the Jewish Temple with its Holy of Holies, is to be uprooted as a reactionary construct of the post-Constantinian hierarchy.

I have often thought how much could be done by Rome to derail this horrible endeavour of the litniks, their patrons and their ideological allies, simply by insisting on the word "Temple" instead of "worship space" or "sacred space" in official documents. If you read, for example, Sacramentum Caritatis, mentally replacing these (literally) vacuous phrases wherever they occur, you'll immediately see exactly what I mean.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

I was very taken by Andrew's comment.

A parish church does not need to be a Notre Dame, Paris or a Chartres Cathedral in order to be the "Domus Dei".

A modest building, simple or even austere in its design, (e.g. unadorned "Romanesque" style) can make a most worthy House of God.
(And it need not be expensive to build.)

But the supermarket / conference hall / this-thing-has-just-landed-from-outer-space style is not, in my opinion suitable for a Catholic church.

It is not (in my case) conducive to prayer, and is not (in my opinion) suitable to be called a House of God.
And I suspect its designers didn't intend it to be.

The only way you would ever get me inside one of these places (such as the illustrations posted by Fr.Ray) would be feet first.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Thanks be to God i live in The Oratory Parish, Birmingham.

nickbris said...

Somebody has decided that we have to keep a low profile,just like the Church in China

gladys heenan said...

Gretel ~ I can assure you the cathedra is ridiculous, as is the baptismal font, confessionals, main entrance and the absence of a toilet facility.

If you call cleaning the interior and example of "tasteful reordering" then well done for the cleaners.