Monday, June 25, 2012

Chapel of St. Ignatius - Seattle University

A church is not a building, or a sacramental space.  A church, or the church, is community being formed and shaped by Jesus Christ for transformation and witness.

Such were some of my thoughts this past week of vacation ~ when I finally got around to thinking about anything at all.

Nevertheless, I am passionately interested in sacred architecture.  And I wondered why I like this version so very much.  We all know that, to my way of thinking, Chartres Cathedral is the pinnacle of  church design and artistry.  But out here, here in north-central Ohio where I pastor, there are a number of nondenominational and semi-megachurches that might best be described, from an outdoor vantage point anyway, as verging on barn-like in design.  And so I have been required to give some thought to  a certain form of church architecture which I can most charitably describe as entirely without promise.

So why do I like this little hodge-podge of a chapel so much?  It possesses its own barn-like elements, along with a flavor of Zen and an intentionality toward the light and dark of spiritual consolation and desolation, none of which entirely converge. Although all things that rise must, according to Flannery O'Connor.

I suppose the pleasure I took in our visit there goes back to the matter of community.  I took one look at the IHS window and knew immediately that I was at home in a community shaped by Jesus Christ, a community whose 450-plus year old spiritual tradition has played a big part in the shaping of me.  I am apparently intrigued by and willing to accept almost any creative expression emerging threfrom,  because I feel the embrace of God when I stand in a space of its making.  It's the community and its prayer which endow the building with meaning, rather than the other way around.

(And yes, Ignatius of Antioch was a different Ignatius.  In case you were wondering.)


  1. I find the chapel beautiful in its simplicity but, as I share with the RCIA, church is community and not a building. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures.

  2. Still working on lightning them up so you can actually see them. What a dreary afternoon that was!

  3. There are parts I find strikingly beautiful and others just too stark for me. I agree with Lynda - church is community an not a building.

    Thanks for clearing up the Ignatius question!

  4. I'm enjoying this tour of Seattle University's chapel you've been sharing with us, Robin. Thank you.

  5. It's such a beautiful space.

    When we were there for our daughter's graduation, we had many quiet moments in that chapel. It became like a center of our days .... we would find ourselves back there.

    Many times we did our Liturgy of the Hours there... and so were some of the professors and retired Jesuit priests who live nearby.

    The palpable faith that I felt while there was very sustaining. And, it had a profound impact on our daughter as well.