Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Worship Space", The Final Frontier...

The story is familiar: A church, in the midst of renovations, has decided that the original pews (still working fine and built, along with the existing worship-space, in 1867) should be replaced with something new and more comfortable. The people are upset; those in charge say "deal with it".

What makes it interesting is that we're talking about The Mormon Tabernacle in Utah. Check out the article in today's New York Times.

Architectural History Professor Thomas Carter of the University of Utah, in describing the Tabernacle's interior said, "It’s not a different kind of church. It’s an other. It is otherness." What a great guideline for ecclesial architects. Do I feel transported to heaven?, or, do I feel transported to some parallel universe where Mr. Spock has a goatee and something inside of me says "this isn't right"?

Another person, emeritus professor of Mormon History Jan Shipps, explained that the early Mormons who made their way west and established Salt Lake City in 1847 believed that they were building a holy "kingdom in the tops of the mountains," a place to live and welcome their savior with suitable edifices. "Their fervor, it was amazing," Ms. Shipps said. "They understood themselves to be going to the Promised Land."

In Chapter 5 of Pope John Paul's 2003 Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the late Pope calls to mind the passage in the Gospels of the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus with the costly perfume, and Jesus' charge to the Apostles to "prepare carefully the large upper room" where he would celebrate the Passover with the 12. Read paragraphs 47-52 for JP2's great reflection on the connection between the Church's interior beliefs (most especially the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) and how he thinks those interior truths should be expressed outwardly in architecture, sculpture, painting, sacred music, church furnishings, and vestments.

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