Friday, March 19, 2010

Space Fundamentalist

I'll share the funny one comment on one of my exams. (I started this in the comments below, but it got too long.)

We had a terrific question on how you would design a sanctuary to reflect Reformed theology, something we had spent so much time on in class that I thought perhaps our professor had written the question. I am fascinated by architecture designed for worship, and so I loved answering the question -- I even diagrammed my ideas. One of the readers said the answer was "Excellent -- what more is there to say?" -- and the other sniffed that she was surprised to find such rigidity in a paper that in the other two questions demonstrated such flexibility and sensitivity to various issues.

I am so un-rigid that I just cracked up. But I do understand the significance of various fixtures and their arrangement, and how they differ depending upon the theology in question, which was the point of the question. One of my favorite student projects ever was the one completed by one of my ninth grade Orthodox Jewish students on mosque architecture. The fact that she understood something about the theology and practice behind the space design did not mean that she had any plans to adopt it!

Personally, I think that stained glass windows have it all over clear ones, but (a) I understand the Reformed theological arguments for clear (guess that's where the rigidity comes in? that I understand the theology behind the original practice?) and (b) if I were actually serving a church faced with the task of designing a new sanctuary, I would encourage thorough discussion of all options and reasons therefor, so that the congregation could make decisions that were well-informed both theologically and aesthetically.

I suppose I am rigid (very Presbyterian) with respect to the process, but quite open as to outcome. But hey ~ the question was about outcome, not polity, and I got to be the designer: no committee, no trustees, no session, no congregation, no architectural firm.

Hence my answer, her response, and my professor's resulting quip that I must be a "space fundamentalist!"

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