Church Renovation: Before and After

At the blog Canterbury Tales, Dr. Taylor Marshall shares some pictures of a particularly striking church renovation in Sugarland, Texas.

sugarland-beforesugarland-after

Any comments?

H/T: The Deacon’s Bench.

67 comments

  1. Sorry, makes me want to gag. I looks like a particularly bad movie set, over sized and stuffed into a small space.

    1. From 70s Novus Ordo honesty to a pure Texas statement that the “Benedictine style” is what we like and it’s here to stay. If they’d had enough money, would they have attempted to build a model of St. Peter’s basilica?

  2. The “before” looks like a studio set for the news or something or it could be a generic chapel like the military have for any type of service of any religion.
    The second does look more Catholic but there is an obvious clash of decoration with the shell of the building, the two simply don’t go together. The placement of the font seems a bit impractical too and as I preach without the ambo I can see myself falling into it! Of course many reading this will be gleeful.
    The other thing I dislike about post-Vatican II sanctuary arrangements is everything on the same level on this “tongue-like” protrusion into the nave that is often too narrow for all the liturgical and devotional events hosted in a church building. This is very 1970’s Rambusch in design and hasn’t faded entirely but perhaps with the reform of the reform but in continuity that will eventually fade, but the revised image certainly fails the reform of the reform.

    1. Please define what makes a prayer space “Catholic”. I mean that as a serious question. Are you (and many others) defining a particular architectural style as more “Catholic” than others?

      1. Maybe high church, low church might be a more apt description. I think Presbyterians and Methodists would more than likely feel very comfortable in the original look of the church and less so in the redecorated look, precisely because the second looks more “Catholic” than “Protestant.” High Anglicans might feel the same way but in the reverse. The iconoclasm in church decoration during the early 1970’s, not only of newly built churches, but the stripping of older ones, certainly made many Catholics feel that Catholic Churches were becoming more “Protestant” looking and I suspect many Protestants would agree. As far as I am concerned, I could have lived with the original look of the church with only minor alterations but keeping a unity of style. The back lighting, by the way, makes it look like a discotheque not to imply there is a particular architectural style to that.

  3. It is tempting to try and figure out what sort of theology underlies the renovation. The way in which the “sacred space” of the sanctuary ignores the building around it might be seen as reflecting a view in which grace is related to nature only extrinsically, so that the world of grace (the sanctuary) is a kind of walled-off enclave within the secular world (the nave). Not only does there seem to be no sense of grace transforming nature, but also there seems to be no sense of the entire space, not to mention the assembly of the baptized that inhabits it, being “sacred.”

    Perhaps this is reading too much into what was probably simply the desire to make the building more pretty while staying within the budget, but I would have thought the money could have been better spent by trying to make the sanctuary more beautiful while staying within the idiom of the building.

    1. I tend to think that architecture DOES encode complementary theologies of nature/ grace and of world/ church as well. (And maybe lay/ ordained???)
      And this may be ‘WAY out in left field, but I was reflecting at how, at the Latin mass, priest with back to people (or, as my son insists, facing the same way as the people), people trusted that the priest was doing everything the way it should be done. Sort of like the way they trusted that the Church was being run the way it should be run, and that the Bishops were doing what Bishops should do.
      So then the mass texts become audible and vernacular, the priest does everything in plain view — and eventually the people discover that the priests do not do everything the way it should be done, that the Church is not always run the way it should be run — and that the Bishops do not always do what Bishops should do (2002, anyone?).
      So yes, I do believe that architecture AND the geography of the liturgy does encode a lot, and that “lot” is absorbed at the subliminal level, more than we ever realize.
      Which is why the liturgy IS important. Well, one reason why.

  4. I had to go to the website. I thought the pictures of before and after were in the wrong order. lol. I admit there are some things about the “before” picture that could use some work. Reading from the article, that the lights change color based on the liturgical season…definitely a way of using the lighting to set the environment.

  5. The green lights in the “before” (apparently they vary with the liturgical colour of the day) seem weird.

    The “after” comes across as little more than an expensive and discordant pile of traditionalist shibboleths: the baldachino, the huge crucifix, the central tabernacle, the six candles and second crucifix on the altar, etc.

    Neither one strikes me as particularly beautiful or supportive of beautiful liturgies.

    I agree with Claire about the organ and flowers, though.

  6. The basic problem is “classroom” shaped churches in which there is a platform area at one end and seats facing that area.

    Orthodox Churches which have an iconostasis at one end work much better when they do not have pews or have some of the front pews removed so that that the ministers are out among the people for much of the liturgy, as they were when there was a bema (platform) in the middle of the church, now usually indicated by a carpet.

    Catholic churches work better when there are “choir stalls” facing one another, whether in front of the altar or behind the altar or with the altar in the center. A lot of Catholic Churches built in the shape of a T basicly have a nave and two choir stalls. I think they work better than the auditorium structure which is simply a wider classroom.

    Where does the classroom structure come from? Protestant focus on sermon? Jesuit abolition of choir?

  7. Well, we went from one kind of kitsch to another, though I have to say the photos don’t help in getting a full sense of what was going on, shall we say (for example, the details in the ambo, font, altar, tabernacle, et cet. are insufficient to discuss them, though I am surprised by Stroik’s font).

    One positive note is apparent removal of the false hanging curtain wall. The less that is said about the lighting in the before picture, the better. Shudder.

    Now, I am actually a fan of the baldachini (they actually can improve natural acoustics – the altar equivalent of the sounding board for pulpits). Freestanding, though, over the freestanding altar. The attempt to fit the tabernacle and altar under it here is not as successful as a different arrangement would be. And the design of the the baldachino is off – the Corinthian order is out of place. The panel molding in the frieze looks cheap and out of place. Given that the space itself is not Neo-Classical or Renaissance in design, it would have been more appropriate to have chosen a model that is happier being in a mongrel style setting – the the Late Antique, Byzantine-inflected or Romanesque baldachini of the Roman rite would have been more apt models to draw from. (This is an illustration of how Stroik’s one-trick pony of classicism is becoming a mere inverse of Vosko….)

    Btw, where is there a ramp or at least railing to ascend and descend the predella?

  8. What a wonderful and easy space to “renovate” that wasn’t “renovated” well at all. Church people often confuse the terms “renovate” and “redecorate”. This church looks to have been redecorated. I fail to see how all that marble-looking material…perhaps faux, perhaps not, compliments all the 1960’s-looking wood. What is even more difficult to believe is that the terms “stunning” and “breathtaking” were used to describe it. Sort of reminds me of a Seinfeld episode I once saw.

  9. This feels like going from the 1973 Sacramentary collects to the new Roman Missal collects. It’s an overreaction in the other direction.

    I live in Northern California, where many, many churches were built in the 1960s and 70s. They are, for the most part, painfully ugly. So you can understand why many people might be attracted to something more “classical.” Not being a big fan of the Baroque era, this style is not my taste.

    I am, however, sympathetic to Aidan Kavanaugh’s position that “churches should not be carpeted” which is, for Kavanaugh, a metaphor for his larger point that churches should resemble public space not suburban living rooms.

  10. Who instigated and approved this change; the bulk of the people in the parish, or a pastor who will be transferred to another parish after his term here is complete?

    How was it paid for; by a dedicated fund of many small donations or by a few large donors honored with a prominent plaque?

    My parish was victim to an analogous change across every aspect of parish life – building, choir, staff, etc. It’s why many (most?) left for other parishes, other denominations and even no church at all.

    I think the conversion is as ugly as sin, but the real question is whether the people of the parish wanted it or whether it was imposed from above.

  11. I noticed this post over at the Deacon’s Bench, and I’ll offer the same comments here.

    I would be interested in seeing a shot of this church from farther back in the nave, to put the sanctuary in context.

    Granted, the “before” photo is fairly lackluster, but certainly not the worst. However, the “after” photo looks like a lot of faux classical elements were dumped into a 1970s structure.

    You can’t make contemporary buildings looks old, nor can you make old buildings look contemporary. It just doesn’t work.

    I would say that this renovation is indeed “striking” because it’s architectural incoherence is so jarring.

  12. I’m with Alan: it’s overly generous to call this anything but a redecoration.

    The font is still part of the “sanctuary.” A real renovation would examine such a practice. Overall, the whole notion of liturgy as performance seems to be well-ingrained in this parish. The before and after images pretty much say the same thing. In fact, aren’t those the same three chairs on the right?

    The symmetry always looks good from the center aisle, but I wonder how those baldacchin columns work from the view of a person sitting near the side aisle.

  13. The before is too plain, but the after doesn’t fit in with the ceiling. I can appreciate both modern churches and their architecture, and older churches and their architecture.

  14. My 11-year old daughter (who lately complains that she is an atheist and should not be forced to go to Mass) popped in while I was writing my previous comment and so I asked her what she thought of the two pictures.

    She preferred the renovation. “It’s pretty,” she said. “The other one is dull.”

    So my conclusion is either: a) that the renovation touches some deep anthropological intuition about beauty that the original ignored or b) that the renovators have the aesthetic sense of 11 year olds.

  15. Peter, you inspired me to ask my 17-year old son (who, ever since his confirmation, has turned into a Christmas-and-Easter Catholic). He said:
    he prefers the renovation, except for the flowers. He doesn’t particularly like the other one, which he finds uninteresting, except for the green lights.

    I am appalled.

    1. Claire;

      Perhaps much to your continued horror…most 17 year olds (today) would respond in kind. It has nothing to do with theology, liturgical preference or any such thing. Any successive generation rebels against the aesthetic and cultural norms and tastes of the preceeding generation. We are at the time when that pendulum is again swinging and what we (I assume you are maybe at least in my age group + or – 15 years or so) consider “Contemporary” is seen as hopelessly passe by our children. This is true regardless of whether you consider yourself traditional or progressive or whatever. It could, however, make a strong argument for a liturgical approach not tied to the popular culture.

  16. What strikes me most about this is exactly what strikes me again and again and again when comes to the renovations and re-decorations of these kinds of churches these days — at no point does anyone ever seem to think, “Well, we have a plain and simple — but not architecturally ugly — church. So let’s commission or acquire some beautiful sacred paintings to adorn it’s currently bare and empty walls.” No, it’s always, “Let’s fiddle about with the architecture!”

    Frankly, this is an utterly iconoclastic mindset. Notice how there’s no more artwork in the renovated sanctuary than there was in the un-renovated sanctuary. It would have been a simple matter to get a few good, colourful paintings to hang on those white walls and everything would have looked very nice indeed. Which also would have been the natural thing to do: you get an architect to design and build a church and then when it’s done you finish it off by filling it with art. But instead what you get these days is a whole load of artificial messing about with the architecture, even when there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. The irony of it, of course, is that it’s all completely in the tradition of the post-conciliar ‘wreckovations’ that are so rightly decried.

  17. We have a similar “classroom shape” that Jack mentions earlier. It is a challenge to design the space that does not imply stage/audience. Any thoughts on how to positively use a rectangular worship space most effectively?

      1. Turn it sideways? Put the center of the action in the center

        That is precisely what was done at Saint Patrick Heatherdowns in Toledo, Ohio

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/named/3244879012/

        This was the first church that I went to (precisely one time) when I arrived in Toledo in the early 1980’s. The altar was at the end of the building to the right of the picture, and the entrance was at the end of the building to the left, actually out of the picture. You needed binoculars to see the Mass if you were in the last pew!

        When they remodeled the church they put an entrance halfway down the length of the building (the center of this picture) and placed the altar at the place on the wall of the old building right across from the new entrance.

      2. Here is the new altar. The low wall behind the altar is actually a part of the old wall of the church. The choir is on risers behind the altar. During my last year in Toledo I sang in this parish’s choir. They had excellent liturgies, and good music.

        http://www.gribblenation.net/ohio/roamin/drexel.htm#stpatshdowns

        Of course the green carpeting leaves much to be desired; however I suspect that only way to get rid of it would be to replace it with green tiles. The acoustics would get better (they were not that bad) without improving the visuals.

        As the reviewer notes, they took a pre-Vatican II (1957) church and updated it according to Vatican II by relocating the altar (and the choir) into the center of things.

        Many of these ugly long box churches were pre-Vatican II. It really didn’t matter that people could not see the priest. And like this church they had plain windows and little decoration. Vatican II did not create the problems with church buildings; they were there well before the Council.

      3. Nice pics Jack.
        Especially nice is All Saints Church and also St. Joan of Arc. Light years ahead of the redo shown above.

  18. So much for noble simplicity. I think some tweaking could have been done to the original design – but not much. The Marian statue doesn’t fit. Just by changing paint color or using well placed draping, nice fabrics without words or symbols, would go far to accent but not dominate. Liturgically colored lamps is a no-no. But the first would be far more conducive to focus on the ritual action, which should be the goal of any worship space. The revision is just so busy, I wouldn’t know where to look and would probably be distracted easily.

    I also would have left the parish after a redecoration like that.

  19. Houston, like many large dioceses, have pockets of very conservative catholics.

    This is St. Therese Parish in the SW suburb of Houston, Sugarland (home of Halliburton) and a rapidly expanding suburb – 5-6 catholic parishes. Largest is St. Michael’s where I attended pre-school, kinder, and 1st grade.

    Fr. Stephen Reynolds has been the pastor at St. Therese since 2006 – historically the church was put up quickly and may have been meant to eventually be turned into a parish center.

    The parish built and launched a school in 2008 as part of a $7 million dollar master plan including church renovations.

    The school markets itself as a “Classical Catholic School” – kindergarten through 5-6 grades by now. The school introduces latin in 1st grade, latin grammar in 2nd grade, and reading latin works by 5th grade. Music is taught everyday following the “Ward Method” which is based upon Gregorian Chant.

    http://sttheresacatholicschool.org/academics/latin/

    There are three full time priests including a Franciscan who can help Hispanic parishioners (2 Sunday masses in Spanish). There is a full time deacon who serves as parish administrator. Not sure how well the spanish population is integrated into the school? There is a Sunday evening Life Teen mass.

    Paul – your archdiocesan contact might have information about the pastor and the actual renovation?

    1. It would appear that the church now fits the parish. That’s fine, as long as it’s understood that this style doesn’t fit every parish!

  20. I think it looks much better after the renovation. The use of many neutral tones of different shades will enhance the beauty of different colored liturgical vestments against the neutral backdrops. The use of what I think is a ciborium over the Altar is coming back in many Churches and adds to the verticality of the liturgy. Again a plus. The new ALtar also looks like it may accept an antependium nicely. Someone mentioned it being cluttered, the Sanctuary. Maybe some of the flowers could be moved or reduced to alleviate some of the visual clutter. Also the detailing in the marble or granite columns is subtle from a distance, but upon closer inspection is is texturally diverse and adds to the mystery of small treasures hidden within the artistic details themselves. The new renovation also fits aesthetically for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass as well as the Pauline Mass. Of course the Pauline Mass would fit well into the atmosphere of the revised Sanctuary as it does in the Brompton Oratory, which retains a traditional appearance. However the Tridentine celebration would look a bit out of place in the former Sanctuary. Overall I think it is a large improvement for a multitude of reasons stated above.

  21. What a choice! An hollow, artless and colourless example of 70’s ‘modern’; complete with cheap and tasteless seasonal lighting. The whole incredibly uninspired. It is spiritually dead.

    Then, the renovation! One ought to like it but for the fact that is a neo-classic anachronism stuffed into a nave quite foreign to it. The effect is that of a Renaissance stage set built within a theatre, and neither set nor theatre are happily conjoined. Nor is it a particularly well carried out stage set: some of the proportions are inept, it is colourless (why do Catholics seem so often to like colourless churches?), fails as the elegantly monumental edifice which was probably desired. Others have commented on the organ. Yes, it is nicely designed (an Aeolian Skinner, yet), but, again, its proportions do not really compliment those of the baldichino and the blind arcades of the sancuary. The two elements, the architecture of the sanctuary and that of the adjoined organ do not succeed in becoming a unified whole.

    Then, there is the church that all of this is in! What an unbelievable pastiche of mutually discordant styles.

    Still, though, in attempting a grand statement with the architecture of the sanctuary and having one of the most laudable of organs, one wonders if the principle liturgy on Sundays and Solemnities is appropriately grand. (I do know that this church had an outstanding PhD choirmaster and organist several years ago – he is now musical director at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas.

    I agree fully with Deacon Fritz: the money spent on the project would have been better spent by far on a stylistically harmonising renovation in the style of the building, overseen by a masterful architect.

  22. The after photo looks like a bad movie set, but my own small suburban church is not better – it has carpets and wood paneling, low ceiling – it looks like somebody’s livingroom.

  23. Maybe high church, low church might be a more apt description. I think Presbyterians and Methodists would more than likely feel very comfortable in the original look of the church and less so in the redecorated look, precisely because the second looks more “Catholic” than “Protestant.” High Anglicans might feel the same way but in the reverse. The iconoclasm in church decoration during the early 1970’s, not only of newly built churches, but the stripping of older ones, certainly made many Catholics feel that Catholic Churches were becoming more “Protestant” looking and I suspect many Protestants would agree. As far as I am concerned, I could have lived with the original look of the church with only minor alterations but keeping a unity of style. The back lighting, by the way, makes it look like a discotheque not to imply there is a particular architectural style to that.

    Although the use of marble columns and a canopy over the altar seems to refer back to St. Peter’s, as pointed out above, this renovation eschews the pictorial art and references to saints that I find more distinctly Catholic. What I see here is a triumphant church as opposed to the Church Triumphant!

    By the way,one set of colored lights does not a discotheque make!

    http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×7946763/discotheque_dance_floor_crowd_03440372.jpg

  24. How appropriate the first reading from this Sunday’s Liturgy is to this topic!!!

    It is all about the double meaning of house: as both a building and a social entity, i.e. a people, one’s descendents.

    David, like many of our pastors, now and in the past, would like everyone to think that they are concerned not about their own welfare and material goods but are concerned only about God’s welfare, that they know God’s mind, and are going to give God the house that God wants and deserves.

    But God knows what house is important, it is the social house of his people, in this case the descendants of David.

    The Vibrant Parish Life Study told us that the people know that “A church large enough for worship” is being well done, at the top of the list of well done things.

    But the same study told us that “The parish as a supportive, caring community” and “The parish exhibiting a spirit of warmth and hospitality” were both half way down the list of being well done.

    Oh, “Masses that are prayerful, reverent and spiritually moving” was half way down the list, too. Mediocrity abounds in worship as well as with community.

    The people know their priorities: worship and community are at the top of the list. They understand love of God and love of neighbor are the important priorities. Building issues are further down (9th and 12th on the list of importance).

    The pastors? They, like David, are often filled with their own self importance rather than the importance of the people.

    They are often out of touch with not only the people, (“Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners” ranked 29 out of 39 in being well done) but also with God’s priorities.

    1. It is interesting what verses got left out of today’s reading: 2 Sam,7, 1-5, 8-11, 16

      6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day on which I led the Israelites out of Egypt to the present, but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.

      7 In all my wanderings everywhere among the Israelites, did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’

  25. Wow!

    What needs to be renovated are the hearts of those posting comments on this.

    1. Passing Judgement on the beauty of a church based on a 1 mega pixel photo.
    2. Then Passing judgement on the pastor and his intentions.

    Check out their website and take a look at the confession schedule… then examine your conscience and go to confession for rash judging God’s anointed.

    http://www.sugarlandcatholic.com
    If you go to the matrimony section in the slider you will get a better view.

  26. The original was ugly, but the renovation is totally inappropriate and looks like a stage set. Perhaps it is better in real life.

    They could have done a lot with the original sanctuary without ignoring the architecture of the building. I used to attend a church that was rebuilt in the mid-60s on the cheap – they saved money by salvaging the old Victorian Gothic high altar and some other art from the original church building. Everything blended together very well, even though it was still obviously a 60s church. You can’t make a newer building look old, but you can blend new and old things together if you pay attention to matching colors, materials, proportions, etc.

    I would have tried to salvage an old set of wood altars (a main altar to house the tabernacle and two side altars for devotional statues) and then used pattern and color on the white walls to unify everything.

  27. ‘Before’ was in my view, better. It looked authentic.

    ‘After’, in my view, seems fake, ersatz, and post – modern.

    1. I thought the chapel was far more successful since they appear to have redesigned the whole space rather than just the sanctuary. It’s way better than the main church.

  28. I think the takeaway lesson is that we need to appreciate various styles of architecture and work within each particular idiom. A classical interior inside of a modern building is clearly a square peg in a round hole. A movie set is an apt comparison.

    As it is now, this church does not convey beauty, goodness or truth. Rather, it conveys dishonesty and sentimentalism. “Let’s pretend this is a classical building” is dangerously close to “let’s pretend that there’s a God.”

    The better solution would have been to turn this ugly 1970s box into offices or classrooms and build an architecturally significant church of classical style. That would have been authentic.

  29. Ah yes, the central placement of the tabernacle and it appears, although I may be incorrect, the altar pushed further back.
    It looks like it could fit in nicely at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, all it needs are slot machines.

    1. Yes, in my opinion, because it seems to be the rallying cry of many conservatives. “Where did they place my Lord”.
      The first official tabernacle was defined and ordered in the 17th century. It wasn’t until the late 17th century that the habit of placing it centrally was recommended.
      In my opinion, the central act occurs at the altar and the centrally placed tabernacle detracts from this. An altar centrally positioned w/ a centrally placed tabernacle translates “equal” and they are not.
      A centrally placed tabernacle w/ an altar pushed back from the nave and positioned close to the altar or repose eventually becomes a Tridentine altar. We recognize what is going on here in my opinion.

      1. Exactly. Georgetown university recently produced an entire series on this. You hit the nail on the head. A centrally placed tabernacle, while looking “pretty”on the visual axis, is a detraction of the central act of the eucharist, and is an historical aberration. We continue w/ rubrics developed in the 17th century which were ‘Knee jerk” reactions to the Protestant Reformation. Some of those who want this are well meaning but don’t have a clue about history and good architectural design. Just look at the above picture and you get the point.

      2. The pyx or hanging dove, pelican, phoenix, etc. suspended over the altar goes back to at least the time of St. Basil the Great. While the tabernacle can and often does compete with the altar, a very strong case can be made for uniting the place of reservation with the altar itself and find ancient historical precedent for it. As long as the altar stands out clearly as the main focus of our attention and dominates the sanctuary.

      3. Dunstan, while it is true that a dove was fixed above an altar dating back to St. Basil but seemed to occur more often in the East? However, never heard of a pelican or phoenix, only a dove which of course was representative of the Holy Spirit.
        As a rule of thumb, post Nicene the reservation was usually in the sacristy (Apostolic Constitution 8.13.17 “and after all have partaken in communion let the deacons carry what remains to the sacristy)”. Early medieval “inserted into the “gospel side” of the altar, middle to late medieval wall tabernacles or separate sacramentary houses (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215 AD, chapter 20, “We decree that in all churches the Chrism and the Eucharist should be reserved ((together))… under lock and key.”) then post reformation the first indication for central placement on the altar: Roman Ritual 1614 AD, IV.1.5 ” As far as possible it is to be reserved in an ornate and immovable tabernacle which is located in the middle of the altar and locked with a key.” There was also great variation depending on the country and location.
        Of course, everyone has an opinion about the tabernacle placement. My personal opinion, along the back wall, central placement, prominent but discreet and outside of the sanctuary. As one walks down the central aisle of the nave one sees the sanctuary, altar, small low back presiders chair behind the altar, then behind the sanctuary the centrally placed tabernacle on the back wall, prominently placed, but discrete, no altar of repose to eliminate competing w/ the altar of sacrifice visually and vice versa. The altar of sacrifice is where the action takes place but the tabernacle has a special location in its own right.

        ps Merry Christmas to all regardless where the tabernacle is placed!

  30. I, too, wondered which was “before” and “after”. The original, to my eye, was characterised by a noble simplicity; the new look certainly has comedy value, but I would not choose to worship there. Each to their own.

    1. By going south of the border into Mexico one can find innumerable examples of “noble simplicity”, old and new. It seems the designers never did that and, instead , settled for this ersatz movie set sanctuary.

  31. These pictures say we changed things because we were dissatisfied with ugly but we had no idea what to change it to. Presumably, the idea was to emphasize the sacred but the person in charge of realizing the concept was incompetent.

    It is commonly remarked that it is much more difficult and expensive to renovate successfully than to build new. Seems to be true in this case also.

    People still visit gothic churches today. Even non believers wander about them respectfully. None of our suburban McMansion churches attract respect or inspire piety even in Church goers today. The buildings will not last. This every one knows. Nor the faith they so accurately embody in sheet rock, tar paper roofs, vinyl floors and all.

    1. When viable parishes are being closed due to a shortage of priests, when a third of American Catholics are walking away for reasons unknown (although we all have our speculations), building a church for the ages is not a high priority.

      The Gothic Churches that were “built for the ages” just happen to be the survivors. When people say “they sure knew how to build them in the old days” they forget that the buildings that weren’t built to endure are gone. Many of those Gothic Churches were also built partly as the Medieval equivalent of a tourist attraction.

  32. If they paid a liturgical or achitectural consultant they should get their money back. I suspect that the USCCB document “Built of Living Stones” was not the guiding document for this renovation. I suspect that a personal need to return to the glory of the EF might have been the overall guiding principle. The steps up to the altar are a dead giveaway. There are a couple of things I would address here. First par. 64 of BLS states that the “most appropriate place for the presider’s chair is at the head of the sanctuary”. In this design it is at the rear of the sanctuary under what appears to be a devotional alcove. The design of the altar and ambo should bear a close and harmonius relationship to one another.(BLS,61,Intro to the Lectionary). This translates into what they are made of. Here the altar appears to be marble, while the ambo is wood. The ambo should also be designed to display an open Book of the Gospels. (BLS,62). Finally, the renovation should have addressed the proper placement of the baptistry. It should be located in the main body of the Church or in a separate baptistry. In this renovation it is in the sanctuary. It should also be visible and accessable to all who enter the Church. (BLS, 67). It would have been better to put it in the narthex or the entrance to the Church. Obviously this was a renovation of the sanctuary. I was struck by the large pipe galleries on each side of the sanctuary. The sound of such a fine instrument is surely lost and absorbed by the carpeting in the main body of the Church.

  33. A church renovation like this makes me glad that I left active ministry and was laicized. Yes, we need to recover a sense of the sacred in Catholic worship, but that does not mean throwing out all of the liturgical reforms of the post Vatican II era. That we still cannot embrace a common vision of what it means to be Catholic is clear. I grew up in a time of transition where I experienced both the pre and post Vatican II liturgies. My formation was solidly grounded in “becoming a priest for the 21st century,” as my old rector would say. St. Theresa’s is an example of everything I was taught not to do. I fear that this vision of church is winning and that the reforms of Vatican II are over.

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