Thursday, October 30, 2008

Church buildings

From the pages of my journal 10/29/08

When I was a young child, about five or six, my mom allowed my neighbors fro across the street to take me to church with them. It wasn't too far, maybe two or three blocks. It was a big, old Methodist church, at least that's how I remember it. For all I know it could have been small and quaint. I have fond memories that almost feel like dreams now, of playing hide and seek after service - usually opting to hid under the choir pews, or up in the raised lectern thing. This church I've decided, was also where my love for coffee came about. Without fail, coffee and tea were available in the back of the sanctuary after service. As I wasn't accompanied by an adult I could have my fill of either beverage. Since tea was regularly available with my babysitter, Audrey, I drank coffee at church. Though it could hardly be called coffee after all the sugar and cream I poured in.
From what I can remember, I was greatly loved at that church, and I'm sure they made every attempt at seeking out my mother. She came once, when I received a Precious Moments Bible, and a copy of Lucy Atwells' first book of prayers - keepsakes I have long since lost track of. My last memories of that church are captured in photos I have somewhere at my mom's house. A few weeks before I turned eight I had a combined Birthday and going away party in the basement, that was used as a multipurpose room, just a week or so before I moved to America. I've never been back since. That was a little over 16 years ago. 2/3 of my life.

I am reminded of those memories as I lay on the ground of the chapel in my house. It might be the smell that brought them, but I think it has more to do with the dark wood pews and ornate furniture that you would typically find in Catholic, or old traditional churches.
Funnily enough, my first thought as I took in the view from my low vantage point (laying on the ground of slightly raised but carpeted "stage"... is it called a stage in a church?), was where I could hide easter eggs in this room.
It's strange that I don't feel the same way towards the ornateness of old chapels, churches and cathedrals as I do about the more modern ornateness of newer, "high tech" churches. In the beauty of old churches, I see the attempt of humans trying to create an alter o the Lord. The painted tiles, stained glass windows, decorative wall hangings, and carefully carved wood fittings. Each an attempt to please the Lord. However, I am not disillusioned enough to believe that this was the soul purpose, or was it? Were these beautiful things added to draw more people to the church, to attract the purses of the wealthy. To make them more marketable?
What was the original purpose of the church? Was it to be a place that people came to list? When I wa about the church I suppose I mean the church as a building. Was it the result of Christians regularly gathering in the same location for the purpse of corporately worshiping God, praying for each other, and having the opportunity to catch up with the neighbor that lived a little too far away to see on a regular basis? Was it meant to represent the Jewish temple? Did it become a place where those who sought out shelter, food, or an ear, could find what they were looking for?

When did churches slowly start drifting away from that? When did they start closing their doors at night? Was it because they we're being vandalized, or did the vandalism occur because they closed their doors? When did we forget what Jesus said and did for the poor, the meek, the downtrodden? Yet as a body, most of us quickly become uncomfortable when an unbathed man walks into the sanctuary. We grow frustrated that our pastor spends more time helping people that come to his door from the "outside" seeking help, than the time he spends preparing for his/her Sunday morning sermon. Maybe, just maybe, his/her service to others is one of the ways he prepares his heart for Sunday.

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