Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Worship Spaces

Lisa and Mimi have suggested we post photos of our home churches. There already are some buried here somewhere (as well as recent ones taken when Shel stopped by while traveling - here). But this reminds me that in my blogging backlog file I have photos from this past Easter that I never uploaded. So here they are, though keep in mind that the place is not really so dark (it just looks that way because I've yet to master my digital camera):

From the website:

Grace Church was organized as a parish in 1838. The first church was a frame building located at the corner of Broadway and Columbia streets. About twenty years later, the current site was purchased by Alfred Munson and given to the parish for “the new church.” With Mr. Munson’s financial backing, Richard Upjohn, architect of Trinity Church, NYC, was engaged to design the present building.

This is a parish of the Diocese of Central New York of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. Episcopalians are part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, a family of self-governing national churches historically related to the Church of England, who remain in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Our worship is focused in the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist (also called Mass and Holy Communion). In the Eucharist we proclaim the great mystery of the Christian Faith: that Jesus Christ has died; that he is Risen from the dead; and that he will come again to save the world from sin and death. The Mass celebrates the sacred mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. In receiving Holy Communion, we believe that we are receiving Christ himself, because we believe that Jesus is truly present in the consecrated (blessed) Bread and Wine; they become for us the Lord’s Sacramental Body and Blood.


Lisa Fox said...

OH. MY. GOD! What a beautiful worship space, Klady. I am drooling with envy!

This is beautiful!

PseudoPiskie said...

It is far more beautiful than photos can show. Mine also came out darker than the church actually is. And the buildings are a huge space to maintain. This causes distress for me. Part of me values these treasures. Part of me wonders if the buildings and trappings built for worshipping actually get in the way of doing what Jesus taught.

klady said...

Thanks, Lisa, but as Shel points out, it comes with a hefty price, both in terms of present dollars and the legacy.

I don't find the beauty a distraction - on the contrary, the building and the music (and silences) that fill that great space are a source of inspiration. But these kinds of cathedral churches are bears to maintain and, in places such as ours, even the radical step of abandoning it is not a simple or realistic option (you literally cannot give away buildings of any kind in our city - even for the land upon which they sit -- and abandonment does not necessarily relieve a parish or a diocese of liability and financial responsibility).

Part of me wants to preserve the artistry of the architecture and decor and use it as a living space for prayer, the Word, and music, in hopes of the Holy Spirit entering those who worship there and carrying forth far beyond the bounds of the building. But... that's an ideal that is difficult to strive for given current social, economic, and political (church and civil) realities. We keep trying, but I often think there should be something more (and different?) than this, here and elsewhere, for the Church to live and thrive.

On the other hand, I think we do ourselves a disservice by not appreciating the value of our past and present and jump too quickly to abandon sacred spaces, well-worn liturgies, and traditional ways of doing things out of a panicky and often false sense of inferiority and insecurity, wanting and expecting each of us to foment thunder-struck transformations essentially on our own, speeded-up human, 20-21st c. time instead of at God's pace and in His measure. I've read too many books, experienced (albeit secondhand) too many meetings, study groups, conferences, and seminars, all haranguing folks in the pews and their clergy to get with whatever the program of the day is (and that goes for many with excellent ideas). I don't think you can plan Emergence or whatever the goal is or plan how one addresses post-Modernism, secularism, and all that. It must evolve, and those who are impatient to either tear the old down or prop up lifeless corpses seem to both be guilty of the kind of myopia and hubris that often engulfs human thought and endeavors.

I think the Gospel asks us first to look and see the faces of one another and minister to people the best we can, whether we be in great cathedrals, in the middle of the street or in back alleyways, or in a simple building or private home, or in the midst of trees and grasses. That doesn't mean we should ignore Beauty -- it, too, is a gift of God -- but we cannot live for it alone.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth has been raising the big question on her blog--where does "mission" fit in when so much of a church budget goes to maintaining a worship space? Yet we come to love our particular designated holy parking spaces in a very personal way--to lose some of them feels incredibly unnatural.

There's a balance somewhere in here, but I recognize the balance is not in the world, it's in me, and it's my job (with God's help) to find it.

klady said...

I'll have to go take a look. I just read my own comments here awhile ago after making the link to the photos - prescient? whatever. Some of my conversation with Lee and experience of her Easter mass yesterday touched on this. Obviously, it can't all be for the buildings but... there's something important about it buried in Jim's school piece (and probably in more developed writings from others on incarnational theology - which I don't know where to find or who to read) about why. Like where Jim says that you probably cannot create love out of a kiss but a kiss can be an important actualization of - not mere "expression" or "communication" - love. And what I think I've been missing for a long time was the love I once learned to bring to mass and engage in and interact with the words and gestures - my bringing myself in praise and worship to God. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, I had lost the ability to see and feel Christ through the Eucharist once I married Jim, even though I was not conscious of his personal presence or sensed a problem that way. There was Christ in Jim especially as he said the eucharistic prayers and I had long stopped looking at him or seeing that -- and I had the great gift of seeing that in Lee yesterday, with uncannily, the precise same gestures (which she learned from a diehard Anglo-Catholic). I'm still trying to process (and resisting processing) all that happened the last two days. It is either the Holy Spirit whooshing in big time or something out of the Twilight Zone... although, one can't think of God for too long, especially around church folks, without recalling or seeing his, what Jim called, Jewish sense of humor. I'm thinking there is great mystery, and Bach and Mozart and I Love Lucy or something all rolled together in it all.