Recently, I posted some thoughts on the relationship between the nostalgic trends in baseball stadium construction and the ancient-future trend in some church circles.
Yesterday, I was in a conversation with someone who had read that post and who wondered if (even though I obviously know nothing about architecture) there had been any conversation in the emerging church on architectural issues.
This leads me again to think about the nature of space. The questions of what space, location, architecture, etc. says about a community are important. While the modern mega-church trend has been to minimize the importance of the symbolic, the meanings continue. The way our church buildings look, from the “church as mall” look of a Willow Creek to the “1970’s era suburban enclave” look of my current parish speaks volumes about who we are, or maybe who we want to be.
As I talked yesterday, I began to think about Disney and their understanding of space, theming, and the symbolic. During our vacation, we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. I can’t fully show you the extent of what the public gathering space was (it was too large and my little Nikon digital couldn’t figure out how to adjust the exposure), but walking in on the first day one is consumed with a feeling, an emotion, a sense that somehow this space is special. The use of totem poles, wood beams, rocking chairs, etc. conveyed the feeling that we were in a national park and that we could relax. Then, those themes were carried out throughout the facility, from the “hot spring” that bubbled up in the lobby, to the stream and waterfall in the courtyard which emptied into the pool (which you see a little of in the picture above. The Wilderness Lodge even had a “geyser” which erupted hourly to set the rhthym of the day. There was a consistency in the use of symbols which clearly stated the values of the space.
I don’t have time to reflect on this much more, other that to say that we shouldn’t minimize the importance of space and symbols as we consider the nature of our communities. These reflect our understandings of God.
Maybe, if I can find the time, I’ll say more about this later.