Trying to assemble a definitive description for church architecture by listening to people who warm pews or chairs or stones may be missing the mark. Wandering around Peru I was granted a glimpse into the ordinary role of church. The meetings of friends, the conversations in the narthex, the sacred silence in the pews and the flowing conversations after the communion meal. Dismissing the role of the architect or dismissing the role of history or even dismissing the role of redemption might create grotesque churches that are people-centered. The repetition of the stations of redemptive history, the steeple chasing presence, the visual landmark all contribute to what is familiar about church.
The modern structue speaks an invitation to come home. It is familiar enough to be safe and welcoming. Friendly enough to rise above stodgy and durable for the next generations.
The traditional cross emboldened on the steeple captures more than the symbol of Christianity. The church with schools and social spaces and food banks is being prepared through Lent for Easter. Every fence repainted, walls repaired. This is a celebration, a resurrection!
In classical facades we can get over anxious about image and how we look. Is my pose ok? My hair? This is not my good side! It has a centre isle for weddings!
And yet like the hair dryer, our concepts of church need to change. Sometime older things are neat, but they are amazingly inefficient. Sometimes our language is so outdated no one understands. None of us use a Helene Curtis Empress dryer, even the balding ones, yet we all struggle with getting our hair right. Maybe church is a bit like that, the asking and praying stuff is easy, the doing and being, like the hair dryer, keep changing.