Friday, March 10, 2006

In Defense of the Gymnatorium...

Thanks to all of your positive responses to my last post. These things come out weird sometimes, don't they? Sometimes I spend an entire day trying to construct something that would be meaningful to people, then post it and it kind of falls flat. Other times I sit down for thirty minutes to write about playing MarioKart and get a dozen positive replies in just a couple of hours. You never know.

(That was me trying to lower the bar a bit so you won't expect too much in the future, but still keep coming back on the chance there might be something good.)

I also appreciated John's question and wanted to give it a more thoughtful response than I initially gave.

John said:

So are you saying that you *need* the building? And are you suggesting that a space isn't as holy if it was just previously used as a gym floor?

I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm just curious where you draw the line on "sacred space" and how far you're willing to take it. I personally struggle to know where that balance is.


One of the great things about getting a bit older is that I have slowly lost the desire to critique and diminish other churches that don't value the same things I value and practice their faith like me. That is, providing that church doesn't spread the poison of spiritual elitism throughout a particular community. (Read: Well, read whichever church you feel fits that description in your community. :) ) It's good to be in a place where you can look at differences and say they are just that-- differences. Not better or worse, just different.

With that said, I think that anyone in a place like Waco with a million churches who visits a few and chooses one, is in a way critiquing all the others. In choosing UBC I was, in effect, saying that the small amount of churches I had experienced here (3), while good in some ways, for me was lacking in some areas. (That's not to say UBC doesn't lack in some areas, as well. I just decided those were not as important.)

I can honestly say, however, that I don't look down on churches who choose functionality over beauty. I also don't believe the two have to be mutually exclusive. There can be something truly beautiful about a congregation who decides to create a space that serves multiple purposes, assuming that decision was well thought out. I know of churches that build cheap and ugly edifices because they feel their money can be better used for mission endeavors. That is beauty. I know of churches that meet in a gymnasium, that is used during the week to reach out to those in the community. That is beauty.

I can read my last post and say "Amen," and I can listen to Tillie Burgin, Director of Mission Arlington and one of my spiritual heroes, preach about how as long as there are people who are trying to Love Jesus and their neighbor and trying to do both together, then it doesn't matter where you have church or what it looks like and also give a hearty "Amen."

I think functionality can be a good thing, provided there is a reason for it. In fact, I may have even given the impression that our building on Dutton isn't functional at all, which would be incorrect. A few years ago we got rid of our old ugly orange pews and replaced them with individual chairs that could be moved around. I was actually against this at the time. I think there's something VERY special about pews. When you sit in pews there is not a barrier between you and your neighbor. There's something beautiful about the messes pews create. It's hard to get in and out. If you drop something it's hard to pick it up. You can't really do anything in a pew without the approval of someone else. Pews make you think of an organic whole while chairs just scream WE'RE A BUNCH OF INDIVIDUALS. Yet, despite my objections the pews went bye-bye and the blue chairs came in, making our room much more functional.

A few months later, the functionality of our worship space made it possible for my close friends Jason and Christy to have their wedding reception in our sanctuary and it was one of the most beautiful, holy, life-giving and affirming experiences I've ever had. Were the old ugly orange pews in the way, I could not have had that experience in that place.

All that to say, "Amen" to functionality and "Amen" to inefficiency. Both speak volumes about who we are and can be beautiful and holy in their own way.

8 comments:

Natalie said...

Check out UBC on msn's website!! www.msnbc.msn.com; scroll down to "the Week in Pictures" along the left side, then choose week March 2-9, picture 14. I saw the pix and thought, hey, that looks like UBC. awesome.

ruth said...

"Sometimes I spend an entire day trying to construct something that would be meaningful to people, then post it and it kind of falls flat. Other times I sit down for thirty minutes to write about playing MarioKart and get a dozen positive replies in just a couple of hours."
maybe cause mario kart is meaningful...some of your best posts are about the simple, everyday-life things...things that we can read and think 'yeah, i do that too...but never could word it quite that well"

harris said...

craig, if you ever need to see one of those orange pews, one of the short, 3 person pews is sitting in my living room. you can come sit in it if you would like...

Doctor Clockwork said...

Wow! How cool to see that UBC picture on the MSNBC's "Week in Pictures."

What up, Craig? I'm just doing some checkin' around before going to bed.

John said...

Hey, thanks for the response. That makes sense.

John said...

Huh... what are the odds? Check out Dan Kimball's blog: http://www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/2006/03/what_are_these_.html
He talks about pews etc. Kinda takes the opposite stance to what you just said.

Adam Phelan said...

I think your love of UBC's space comes from the same place mine does. You've put a lot of time and effort into it. As one who carried on your clean team legacy, I had a new love for the building after spending hours every week mopping floors and picking up discarded bulletins. Or I could look at a wall and know I or someone close to me painted it. It just seems to make the space a little more sacred.

Singleton said...

Clean Team '03 Shout Out! No more full coffee cups in Trash Cans Campaign! All that corregated metal CAN cut you! Wear gloves!