Losing Old Church Buildings

I’m hearing that the court case against the Virginia CANA churches may not go well. Truro, Falls Church and others may be forced to leave their historic buildings. I’ve never been a fan of the “defend the property” strategy, but this is still very sad news. Turning these buildings over to heretics is akin to the North African Church falling to Islam a long time ago.

With that said, it occurred to me today that one reason that it is such a blow to lose these venerable buildings is because there is so little chance of replacing them in our lifetime. Our theology of architecture is so impoverished, and the buildings that we typically build as Protestant churches are generally so awful, that losing these old buildings is a great tragedy.

Most new church buildings are ephemeral, not durable. They are ugly, functional, “multi-purpose” facilities where people worship in the gym. There is generally no art, no stained glass windows and nothing that would really differentiate these buildings from the prison-like school buildings that we build today. On the other hand, places like Truro have a simple elegance and exude a sense of tranquility and “churchiness” that is lacking in most modern Protestant facilities. It seems that Catholics have kept their senses and are producing some great buildings even today. I live down the street from one and I’ve seen many others, such as the gorgeous Holy Apostles in Meridian, Idaho.

So if we are going to continue to think that buildings don’t matter or that we need to build the cheapest, ugliest thing we can get away with and call it good, then losing the old places like Truro (and the many, many United Methodist parishes in Virginia that are gorgeous and given over to heresy) is a very sad event indeed.

5 thoughts on “Losing Old Church Buildings”

  1. I agree. As a modern Christian society we are so worried about catering to the pagans that we have to make church as mainstream as possible. Because we exist in suburbia churches that build new buildings design these multi-purpose eye sores so you can just drop your kid off on one end and go to Bible study on the other. Reverence is no longer an option or a priority. It is “relevance” which makes me want to vomit.

    Now trusting Truro people or any people for that matter to make tasteful decisions about a future new building in our day and age takes a leap of faith. We need some good architects.

  2. Spot on Joel. So many contemporary church facilities seem to be exercises in subtle idolatry. They seem to be built primarily for self/corporate gratification rather than the exultation of the Almighty and Triune God. A carpeted gymnasium is a sorry substitute for a soaring nave. I experienced this during a brief sojourn at Mt. Ararat in Stafford.

    Its sad commentary that TEC would rather see those historic churches become bathhouses or dens for infidels rather than allow an amicable departure. God does not forget, nor will He dismiss their treachery.

  3. Rachel, I agree with you. My point was that Truro (and anyone else) probably WON’T build good new buildings, thus the loss.

    Andy, I couldn’t agree more on modern facilities. The spaces we live in and worship in affect our thinking which in turn affects our lives. They are not neutral or meaningless.

    1. Yes indeed! God blessed Advent with a new space a nine iron shot from our old spot–an old United Methodist building. It’s a great old building that needs much work but it will probably go the way of the Dodo–an apartment complex or something.

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