PowerPoint - Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Can We Develop a Design For
Church Architecture Based on Our
Theology Instead of Our History?
Robert A. Hamel
Master of Divinity
Master of Arts, Biblical Literature
Master of Fine Arts, Theatre Design
“To Boldly Go Where No One’s Gone Before”
Though We’ve Been Trying for Decades!
And Have Kept on Trying
The Evangelical Lutheran Worship includes;
- Ten musical settings of the liturgy for the Holy Communion Service, three of
which were previously published in the Lutheran Book of Worship
- Service of the Word. Morning Prayer (Matins), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and
Night Prayer (Compline)
- Occasional and pastoral offices such as baptism, marriage, burial, individual
- Proper services for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and the Triduum
- Martin Luther’s Small Catechism
- Unlike the abbreviated Psalter included in the Lutheran Book of Worship,
ELW includes the entire Book of Psalms in a version for
congregational prayer and singing.
- Compared to the Lutheran Book of Worship, the selection of hymns is
expanded, including many options from previously published
Lutheran hymnals and hymnal supplements.
And still we struggle with issues related to the
environment of our primary worship life. And almost
every ELCA congregation still worships in spaces that
look like this.
Obviously there are significant challenges.
- Sanctuaries represent major resource investment.
- Remodeling requires even more investment.
- There is very little awareness how our environments
control our worship life.
- There is very little awareness how our theology is in
conflict with our architecture.
- Our past decisions have all too often been based on
what our history tells us church architecture should look like.
4th Century Synagogue in Capernaum
Built over 1st Century Synagogue
1st Century Synagogue preserved underneath.
What does this environment say to us? Intimate, People
Centric, (People see one another as the gathered Israel),
Grounded in God’s Creation, Horizontal Axis emphasized.
Dura-Europas House Church
Oldest evidence of how 1st Century Christians worshiped;
Intimate, People Centric, Flexible, Grounded, At Home with your Brothers and
Sisters. Different Spaces used for: Gathering, Preaching/Teaching the Word,
Holy Communion, and Holy Baptism. The Worship Leaders are Amongst the
People at all times. The Primary axis of emphasis continues to be horizontal.
Jesus Stills the Storm
Jesus Heals the Paralytic
The Artist has an important role in proclamation of the Gospel
story. Interestingly, this is also the time in the life of the church
when the New Testament stories and sayings of Jesus, and the
Letters of Paul are being collected into Holy Scripture.
Worship life is sensual; a banquet of color and
contrast, filled with aroma and texture, (note the
ointment jar in the nitch), and built of natural
How the Greco-Roman world
envisioned Church (Temple)
Pagan Temple Worship
• Pagan Temples were for the Priests.
• There were no congregations connected to Pagan Temples.
• People brought grain and animals for sacrifice either to appease
angry Gods or to get the Gods on their side, Priests feasted on the
• That was what pagan worship amounted to. Occasionally wealthy
patrons would offer sacrifice and hold a banquet with their friends
to enjoy the feast.
• Buildings were valued for their outside appearance. Only Priests
saw the inside.
• The Primary Axis of focus is Vertical, reflecting a theological role for
the temple to be that “in-between” space between earth bound
humanity and the Gods who primarily existed above the world.
• Christianity did not replace Paganism. They were in serious decline
long before Jesus was born. A few pagan temples managed to hang
on well into the 10th Century.
It all changes with
Emperor Constatine.
This is the ancient Roman
Basilica in Trier, France.
Emperor Constatine;
-made Christianity a state
sponsored religion,
-built free Basilica buildings
for Christianity all over the
-then made the church the
center of civil law and
Basilicas are architecture
purposely all about power
and who does and does not
have it. It does so by having;
-immensely tall structures
that belittle the size of the
human figure,
-extremely long distances
from entrance to the area of
-elevated area in the front
upon which the Priest stood
to pass judgement.
The Church most graciously accepted the Imperial favor, the glorious buildings, the
civic responsibility, and the law and judgment based theology the Basilica
proclaimed. After all;
- God is the greatest conceivable being of all, and deserves such immensely tall
and glorious buildings.
- God is the final judge and the highest authority, all should approach in abject
- The human person is a slimy worm, totally depraved, and may come into God’s
presence only by divine summons.
- The Priest is not like the normal person but is the worthy perfection of what
humanity is intended to be. He is therefore rightly elevated above the unworthy
- There is no distinction between sacred and secular. As a representative of the
Emperor, the priest unifies the will of the state with the will of God.
- What the Priest does in celebrating the Mass is done on behalf of the people but
does not require their presence. They do not need to even understand the
language. Therefore it is better to put distance between the sinful people and the
holy altar of God.
- As these Basilicas became wealthy, Pews were introduced for congregational
sitting. They also imposed orderly rows of regimentation upon the congregation
and emphasized formality in worship.
Roman Basilicas become the preferred design for church and
Roman Mausoleums become preferred designs for Baptistries.
The Basilica Style did develop two variations in the Middle Ages, both
were cross shaped expansions of the older Basilica style. This is the
Cathedral of Pisa, Italy which follows the form of the Latin/Roman Cross.
And the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Cross Style.
Above left is in Athens, Greece, and the above is in
Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in Istanbul, Turkey was designed to be the perfect
example of this eastern style with its cruciform ground plan and grand celestial dome.
So what was gained and what was lost in this first
official style of Church Architecture?
Gained –buildings which emphasized;
-God in his heaven, the Great Judge of the World
-a separation between the priest and the people
-an elevation of the clergy over the people
-orderliness and control over people’s activity
-clear and strong connection between church and the state
-clear authority of the church over both spiritual and civil life
-altar table becomes tomb where Christ’s body and blood are
entombed between services. Saints relics entombed in the altar.
This model well suited the church up to the Reformation.
Lost –buildings which emphasized;
-God present amongst the people
-a unity of the people with their clergy
-flexibility, adaptability, informality
But the Reformation fixed all that
medieval error, right?
You’d like to think so, but……
Nothing reformed architecturally, just the same old history carried over by both
Lutherans, Calvinists and Anglicans. And they all made things even worse.
The centrality of Preaching led to immense, elevated Pulpits and small
Baptismal Fonts and Communion Tables that could be moved out of the way
when not needed. The Preaching service became what church was all about.
And the place and role for the artists was reduced to
music only. Calvinists broke out stained glass windows.
Mennonites threw out the church organs and pianos in
favor of brass instruments. And many Protestants
rejected the rich heritage of the visual artist in painting,
vestments, sculpture, etc. as being “too Catholic.”
Worship environments became sterile and plain. Nothing
should visually distract from the “hearing of the Word.”
Happened in
Our Own
Earliest structures sought to reproduced what they
knew from the Old World.
Spanish Mission Style
-San Xavier del Bac Tucson, Arizona
And Our Own Mission Santa Barbara
But in New England a new style of church architecture emerged for the first time in
over 1000 years. The style retained the elevated Pulpit, small Communion Table
and Baptismal Font of its Calvinist old world predecessors. But the building is
intimate, people centered and only tall enough to permit a surround balcony for
overflow seating. Separate doors seating for separate sexes were actually a
theological development in the style.
This form was common among early Lutheran Church buildings as well.
Augustus Lutheran, Trappe PA, 1748
Built by Henry Melchoir Muhlenburg
Old St Paul’s, Newton, North Carolina
Barratt’s Chapel, Frederica, Delaware, 1780
Jerusalem Lutheran, New Ebenezer, GA. 1769
Old Brick, St Paul’s Episcopal, Smithfield, Virginia, 1732
Only Gothic Church Building in The United States.
But the interior of the building reflects the Meeting House
style. Although the exterior is long and Basilica in
shape, with a massive Gothic tower, notice how the
building is used.
The elevated Pulpit is
positioned along one side
of the building instead of in
a Chancel area at one end.
People sit in a U shaped
arrangement of pews,
centered around the Pulpit.
Baptismal Font is located in
its own corner of the room.
Altar/Communion Table is
at the end of the building
opposite the tower
After the Revolutionary War, American Church Architecture returned to the European
Basilica model. Several new external design forms developed but all are Basilica in form.
Neo-Classical Georgian
Romantic, Gothic Revival
Neo-Classical Federal
Romantic, Medieval Revival
Romantic, Greek Revival
Romantic, Prairie Gothic
Romantic, Carpenter Gothic
Romantic, Spanish Revival
Romantic, Timbered Gothic
The Great Awakening revival so focused on preaching that a new architecture emerged.
All across the country a style
developed that built on the
extreme production values
of the revivalism of the day.
Slanted audience seating
curving around the raised
platform. An altar call ideal.
Auditorium Plan
Note the fan shaped layout, the curved, elevated three-quarter round seating on
both the main floor and balcony. Note also the center front “staging” area for the
Preaching, Testimony, Teaching, and Music. See the very small portable
Communion Table and no Baptismal Font at all. Adult conversion is the norm.
Richardsonian Romanesque develops in partnership with the
phenomenal surge in Sunday attendance to hear the Great Preachers and
their musical Soloists and Choirs following the Civil War.
This is the era of George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, The Rev. Billy Sunday, Norman
Vincent Peale, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and The Rev. Billy Graham. Presbyterians,
United Methodists, Baptists and the whole spectrum of Evangelicals enthusiastically
embraced this new style. This is the second moment in America when historical
antecedents were set aside because of theological needs. The first was Puritan
Meeting House.
The vast majority of congregations still worship in Basilica floor plan churches.
The majority of the rest of the congregations worship in Auditorium floor plan churches.
But there is a new phenomenon of churches being built and or renovated to create worship
spaces that better unite our theology with our architecture.
The congregations seek to return to the earliest priorities of the first centers of Christian
Worship, the House Church. They seek to;
-restore the importance of the horizontal, people to people focus,
-restore the maximum of flexibility within the worship space,
-restore the four-fold equality of focus between the place of the word
(Pulpit or Ambo), the place of the meal and prayer(Communion Table), the
place of the water, confession, and entrance rites (Baptismal Font), and the
place of the people (Body of Christ),
-the return of the full range of artistic involvement in worship life,
-the return to natural, light filled environment, nothing artificial,
-the return to hard surfaces that enhance the acoustics of the room (no
“sound sucking” carpeting).
The Grandeur of height can be
refocused from its historic origins in
power, intimidation and judgment to
proclamation, welcome and Grace!
Organ Pipes which need the height to
do their job of proclamation and
worship leadership, are perfect for
those high ceilinged chancel areas.
But note how the organ is not the
focus of the room, the light, warm
woods of the Altar, kneeling railings
and seating bring the human eye
away from the metallic pipes to the
more human and welcoming place of
the people.
And just look at that Baptismal Font!
OK, let’s take a closing look at Fonts.
Ancient Baptismal Font
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
New Font designs focus on the primacy
of The Means of Grace –Water, moving,
living, Spirit filled water, and the ability
to practice emersion as well as pouring
or sprinkling. These are MAJOR centers
of worship at the entrance to buildings.
Of course we must not take this moving water thing too far.
Toyota powered Baptismal Fonts are probably not a good idea.
On that note I wish you blessed reflection on our Theology of Worship and
your worship space.

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