Reflections on a Renovation: St. Paul’s, Madison

By Brandon Sanders

Brutalism: It was a word with which any student attending St. Paul’s in Madison would become intimately acquainted; This concrete-bunker of a structure would become my parish home for the four years I was in medical school (the bare gray walls of the basement greatly facilitated my preparation for medical boards). I was initially aghast at its austerity in comparison with the Polish Cathedral style parish I grew up with, it lacked the warmth of the wood clad ceiling of the Newman Center I attended in college; but with time I grew to appreciate that within its radical design, was a profound emphasis on the liturgy.

Age had not been kind to the structure, and a demand for space, the growing urgency and need for repairs (and at least to me, the abysmal acoustics) finally lead to exploration and planning of a new church and student center. What was only a hope when I was a student, has recently become a reality and the new St. Paul Catholic University Center had its Mass of dedication on November 12th, 2017. Gone is any trace of concrete, brutalist aesthetics, or antiphonal seating. The plaza is now dominated by a red brick structure with a mosaic of Christ and Mary on the front. It is an undeniably warmer space, a more familiar architectural language, and very obviously, a church (a claim the former building could never make), and I am sure it will serve the community of St. Paul and the parish very well in the coming years. However, the new design evokes some interesting observations.

The exterior of the church dominates the space, conveying a certain Catholic exceptionalism and dominance over the nearby Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. The interior leaves me feeling even more conflicted. The space does not reflect the time, place, or the people that this building is intended to serve. The design is mostly neoclassical and Eurocentric, and the human depictions are predominately Caucasian. The space is adorned with disharmonious decorum; a Byzantine Pantocrator hovers over a replica of the 16th century Sistine Madonna. The focus from the nave seems to the Madonna rather than the ambo or the altar (there actually appear to be two altars). Finally, having not been in the space myself, I can’t say with certainty, but it also seems as though the sanctuary is not ADA accessible.

I offer these observations not as a condemnation of the new building, but because I think we must ask ourselves some difficult questions about the identity and messages that we want to convey through our architecture. Does this space suggest a reverence for tradition, or is it a self-referential yearning for an ahistorical past? Is the church ultimately European in its character and culture or global? Who is the church? Does it include our Protestant neighbors through our common baptism, communities of color, or the disabled? Are we a church that engages with the present and looks towards the future, or bound nostalgically to the past?

Brandon Sanders is psychiatrist at Hines VA Hospital and Psychiatry Resident at University of Illinois College of Medicine. He sang in the National Catholic Youth Choir in its founding year in 2000.

34 comments

  1. I get that there are things about the new space which could have been differently. But the old space was nothing so much like an empty municipal swimming pool. I was very surprised to learn the the things which resembled outlets for water jets were actually the stations of the cross. Part of what you term “yearning for a historical past” may simply be a reaction to a structure which consciously rejected any apparent link to the past.

  2. Brandon, is seeking grounding in tradition, or “an ahistorical past,” a bad thing? The Bible is over two thousand years old, yet we still read it intently every time we pray the mass or the Liturgy of the Hours. St. Peter’s Basilica is older than almost every country around today, yet it continues to be the most visited church in the world, while many churches built in the last half century
    sit almost empty on Sunday. Our past informs our present. It’s simply part of our Catholic DNA.

    The new church at St. Paul’s seems to make a statement that the Church is back, a Phoenix risen from the ashes of recent scandals, fallen away youth, and in the case of Madison a cathedral that burned due to arson ten years ago. It’s a very powerful statement of a community that is proud of its heritage and its mission. Having done my undergrad in Southern Wisconsin, I know many students and alumni who welcome this new edifice and I’m sure it will be well used.

    1. The Bible is over two thousand years old, yet we still read it intently every time we pray the mass or the Liturgy of the Hours.

      True, but we don’t write new texts that try to “sound like the Bible.” We want the texts we write to be rooted in Sacred Scripture, to shed light on it, but if you try to ape its form you end up with something like the Book of Mormon: a jumble of things that sound superficially “Bible-ish” (I realize Mormons don’t see it this way). Likewise, aping the architectural past can often (not always) lead to a jumble of things that look “churchy.” In this case, the Madonna in particular is in an unfortunate stylistic clash with the Pantocrator, and, as anyone can tell you, if you get into a clash with a Pantocrator, the Pantocrator is going to win.

      1. Fritz, I’ll be the first to admit that some of the artistic choices in the new church are not ideal, namely the Madonna. It was included because their pastor (an Opus Dei of course) has a great devotional appreciation for that particular work of art. That said, it clashes artistically with the rest of the sanctuary which weakens its cohesiveness (I would’ve just gone with a large crucifix IMHO). I heard other students and alumni make similar critiques.

        However, I don’t see any problem in churchy looking churches, because that’s what they are. Churches since the dawn of Christianity have required certain architectural attributes to serve their purpose, which is why St. Paul’s predecessor which largely rejected this notion of church architecture was such a disaster; it was utterly disconnected with the sacred liturgies that took place there. It’s architect visited the church before it’s demolition and even he commented that it being a liturgical space was odd. The new church, despite a few flaws, is a much better example of a building that serves the sacred liturgies that take place within it.

  3. “The exterior of the church dominates the space, conveying a certain Catholic exceptionalism and dominance over the nearby Lutheran and Presbyterian churches.”

    Sometimes I think this blog exists to make irony redundant.

    Is there a problem if a Catholic church dominates a public area? Wasn’t that true for most of Church history? Oh, I forgot, you may not believe that “the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 8).

    “Are we a church that engages with the present and looks towards the future, or bound nostalgically to the past?”

    I have the decoder ring that tells us the meaning of this sentence: “Evident aesthetic beauty, grandeur, or any acknowledgement of Catholicism’s 2,000-year artistic heritage, which is unique in the entire history of the world, are expressions of hankering for a by-gone era.” This is what logicians call a “petitio principii.”

    1. I wish to respond to this comment about Pray Tell.

      Life is full of ambiguity, tension, competing goods, irony, struggles to grow in wisdom. Trying to escape this with traditionalist ideology, in my opinion, is not what God calls us to.

      There are serious questions about how the Catholic Church should engage culture, relate to other denominations, use its heritage, draw on the past, be humbly able to critique past arrogance and triumphalism, cultivate the right kind of beauty which opens us to the Kingdom and isn’t just self-congratulatory self- promotion, and so forth. The last ecumenical Council laid the groundwork for us to take up such challenging questions, not avoid them. The post is an attempt to deal with such really difficult questions. I’m sorry you misread it to be a one-sided attack on the past.

      awr

      1. Anti-traditionalism can be as much as an ideology as traditionalism. The Catholic faith is at heart traditional. In an attempt to be inclusive, do we really need to exclude those faithful who are attached to the rich traditions of their Catholic faith?

      2. This exchange reminds me of the way Jaroslav Pelikan set out the difference between Tradition and Traditionalism in his 1983 Jefferson Lectures, published in 1984 under the title of “The Vindication of Tradition”; he does so by turning around Emerson’s definition of “tradition” as “the dead faith of the living”:
        “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”
        A few years later he later summarized the longer presentation of this idea that he had given in his lectures:
        “Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”
        The Catholic religion is a religion of Tradition, not of Traditionalism. Tradition allows us to engage with the questions Anthony raises; Traditionalism, which Pelikan also presents as a “tape-recording of the past”, can only compare the present with the past, and find it wanting.

        As to the two churches that are the subject of the post, I would say that they are more or less equally hideous in utterly different ways, more or less a draw between Professor Silenus and Chokey’s taste.

    2. Peter,
      I don’t always agree with your perspectives here, but I almost always find something insightful and worthwhile that I can take away from what you write. I am greatly saddened and disappointed by the substance and tone of this comment. I urge you to not give in to the idea of writing ones like this.

      1. Jeff,
        The problem, as I see it, is that the post overlooks the very obvious fact that this new church is a vast improvement on the “old” one — not perfect, I’ll agree, as it’s rather eclectic and doesn’t quite hold together aesthetically, but still a step in the direction of reclaiming our Catholic identity, visage, vocabulary, self-awareness, rather than surrendering to the concrete bunkers of modernism. So, yes, I was a bit piqued, especially as I know well one of the architects involved, and know how much work went into it and how many obstacles (esp. financial) had to be overcome.

        For me, though, the ironic touch was the nostalgia for the 1970s evoked by the opening lines — and then the later blast against nostalgia. That people on the “progressive” side do not recognize their own entrapment in a weird sort of nostalgia is very odd. As for me, I’m perfectly happy to admit to nostalgia — if we take this word with the rich meaning that Wojtyla and Ratzinger attribute to it.

      2. The author is pretty open about the sentimental nature of his attachment to the old church, and doesn’t try to use that attachment as an argument for its architectural/aesthetic superiority. His nostalgia is simply a function of positive experiences had in the old church, regardless of its merits or deficiencies. Thus his nostalgia differs in a couple of ways from what he is criticizing:

        1) It is frankly acknowledged as nostalgia, and not turned into an argument in favor of the thing he is nostalgic for.
        2) It is nostalgia for something that he actually experienced, something that played a significant role in his life, not for some imagined past that he never experienced. In fact, these two forms of nostalgia bear at best an analogical relationship to each other.

        I think there is plenty to criticize in the old church building–not least the odd tiered seating that gave the whole thing a theater-like quality that, to my mind, is inappropriate for a liturgical space–but I would never criticize someone’s nostalgic attachment to it. But I do think nostalgia that does not arise from one’s actual experiences, but is ginned up by looking at websites or brief visits to historic churches, and then masquerades behind claims that something does or does not “look like a Catholic church,” is open to criticism.

    3. There are often multiple reasons why churches are built the way they are. Sometimes the reasons aspire to greatness and achieve it: cathedrals in medieval Europe, perhaps. Sometimes the reasons have good inspirations behind them, but perhaps have mixed reactions. I remember a church in which an elderly parishioner proudly said, “The people are the decoration when they gather for worship; otherwise a church is an empty shell.”

      Sometimes the reasons are quite poor. A school must be built first. A pastor cites a strict budget within which the project must be brought to completion.

      UW’s student parish has a complex locus: a culturewarrior bishop in a very liberal university city which happens to be a state capital. A faith community that aspires to serious evangelization: mission over maintenance. It’s understandable that a confused postconciliar Church would struggle with history.

      If the exterior architecture is meant to dominate Luther and Knox, I observe the whole point of being Catholic Christian is to enact the Great Commission. Not engage in one-upmanship with other Christians. If Catholics have real competition, it would be with the other group that aspires to pluck low-hanging fruit: many evangelical Protestants.

      If a confused multimedia of various European art forms achieves making disciples, more power to it. If the point is to pluck low-hanging fruit, then mission unaccomplished. Catholics should realize we live in a new age–a rediscovery of Matthew 28:19-20. Old infighting just doesn’t cut it, however good it makes people feel–culturewarriors, campus ministers, traditionalist Catholics, or whomever.

  4. It’s hard to be certain with visuals I’ve seen of the predecessor and replacement, but if indeed the natural (unamplified) acoustics are notably improved in the shift, that would be a very significant credit in favor of the replacement towards effective implementation of the conciliar liturgical reform. Discussions of church design typically reflect a cognitive bias of neglect of the aural dimension of a church building because the visual dimension is much easier to dissect and analyze.

    Visually, the recently common problems in grander historicist designs appear to be (i) acoustically problematic domes*, and (ii) proportions of details being distorted by what I’ve taken to calling a preferential option for utility conduits. Neither seems to be significantly in play here. I am not a fan of Renaissance/Baroque marble flooring designs, because such floors can be absolutely treacherous to walk on once dampened (much safer would be, among many options, not too polished travertine or Cosmatesque-style small tiling). I could nitpick design till the cows come home, but if this had been built elsewhere under a different bishop I am not sure it would be critiqued in quite the same way.

    The Roman Catholic church will always bear the imprint of its mother culture. It will not always bear it exclusively, but to expect it to vanish is expecting the church to have no identity -a principle that would rightly be objected to if it were applied to any other ecclesiastical communion with deep roots. And it should be noted that we should not be only concerned with Protestant churches on the ecumenical front, but also Orthodox and Oriental churches.

    * Deep domes, or domes on high drums tend to suck sound in a way that makes for a hazy aural nimbus of sound. Which is fine if you’re not looking for active congregational participation in dialogues and singing as would have been the case in the eras when such domes were a la mode. For the reformed liturgy, I would venture that if domes are to be desired for the main worship space (as opposed to a baptistery or chapel), shallow Byzantine domes or Catalan sail vaults (Guastavino tiles, please!) are likely to be less problematic.

  5. I think one could look at the exterior of the church and interpret its grand style as a bold statement that the Church in the midwestern United States isn’t just a dying, shrinking, entity. Too often in the Midwest, the buzz about the Catholic Church is all doom and gloom – churches with aging congregations shuttering like dominoes and a priest shortage guaranteeing that the trend will only continue. Seeing a new church in an urban environment – on a college campus no less – with such a large piece of public art might not be so much a sign of triumph over neighboring Protestant churches, but more a small sign of hope for Catholics.

  6. For whatever the flaws may be in this particular design (certainly disharmony is among them), the author’s critique misses some pertinent questions. His analysis seems to seek a better way forward by probing only the failures of the “revival” project. It is flatly asserted that “The space does not reflect the time […] that this building is intended to serve,” but I do not consider it controversial to claim that this building is very much a “sign of the times.” Alongside continued deployment of modern and postmodern ecclesiastical architecture there are a growing number of faith communities building or renovating in more traditional idioms. Perhaps such Catholics really are insufficiently sophisticated and have failed to recognize good church design right in front of their faces. And perhaps their rejection of that design will serve them and their surrounding cities more poorly than other choices. But even if that were established fact, the questions would still need to be asked: why did (post-)modern design fail to resonate with these Catholics? how could those failings be addressed to effect reconciliation of traditional and progressive desires? is criticism of revivalist nostalgia fully forward-looking, or does it harbor its own self-referential yearning for a different bygone era?

  7. This building strikes me as the product of reactionary traditionalists. I’m embarrassed for those who in the 21st century propose that everyone knows what a true “Catholic” church looks like. This is nonsense. This ignores the historical fact of how church buildings in the imperial west came to look like “basilicas”. Roman basilicas were public buildings turned over to the church for worship as the Empire declined. This size and shape in turn gave rise to a form of clerical domination of the church with which we live to the present day. The liturgy in these structures focuses on the clergy. While the architectural and artistic features of these buildings are often beautiful and inspiring, they can end up looking more like museums than places in which the entire body of the faithful offer God worship in spirit and truth.
    Churches built since the reforms of Vatican II were designed not just for the activities which focus on the priest but for what the assembly of priests do when gathered to remember and celebrate the paschal mystery. The Madison structure reduces the faithful to observers of what’s going on “up front”. I hasten to add that there are many Catholics who may restrict their activity to that of observers in more contemporary churches but not because they were designed that way.

    1. While we should not dare to say what a true Catholic church looks like, it would seem that it is OK to say what it does not look like: like what it has historically always looked like. Additionally, the characterization of those who support traditional church design as “reactionary traditionalists” is hardly an openness to inclusion and diversity.

      Given that we have scant knowledge of pre-Constantinian churches, I would be hesitant to state that the architectural focus on the actions of the priest at the altar was a result of the adoption of the basilica form. The basilica, a high nave flanked by two side aisles, was just the most efficient way to cover a large hall. And given that the Mass was, from the beginning, not merely a communal agape meal gathered around a common table, but a true sacrifice offered by a bishop/priest on behalf of the community, then the placement of the altar and clergy in the apse of the basilica becomes natural.

      1. Leaving aside any aesthetic question, there are a couple of historical blunders in this post.
        First, the attempt to separate meal and sacrifice is flawed. As has been pointed out here before, it’s a sacrifice because it’s a meal. “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death.”
        Second, to say that the bishop/priest was offering the sacrifice on behalf the community is to read mediaeval theologizing back into antiquity. As the Roman Canon says, this sacrifice is being offered by everyone (qui tibi offerunt).
        Third, Robin Jensen within the last few years has once again done the research and shown that the altar was far enough into the nave that the reference in the Roman Canon to the “circumstantes” made sense. She also points out that this arrangement was normal not only for churches with a “confession” but for others as well. But then anyone who has visited a basilica in Rome knows that.

  8. One person’s “rich traditions” are another person’s “yucky sentimentality”. I think Brandon Sanders’ questions deserve to be treated more seriously than some of the commenters here have done. A real discussion about what church buildings are for, who they are for, and how they work in practice, is long overdue. Let’s not leave everything at the level of personal taste, but look at the underlying principles.

    1. I think the motivations of people with traditional liturgical leanings need to be more seriously addressed. All too often it is caricatured as “nostalgia for an a-historic past,” or “a rejection of Vatican II,”or “spiritual immaturity/impoverishment,” or “ignorance,” but never with any concrete evidence to support these assertions (and one often finds quite the opposite of these to be true). These go-to dismissals are easy since they do not require those who make them to ask difficult questions that might have difficult answers. It’s easy to simply say that those who promote and celebrate traditional architecture, art, or liturgy simply do so because they have something wrong with them – it’s harder to ask how this or that aspect of the liturgical reform has failed them. Aaron Sanders’ post earlier in this thread dares to ask some of those difficult questions.

      1. It should be noted that those who share an appreciation for traditional architectural forms are a larger group – I would venture a far larger group – than liturgical traditionalists, so those caricatures also fail even if they were, arguendo, accurate for the supposed traditionalists. When they are trotted out, it’s not a sign of a strong argument, but a “don’t bother me” attitude.

  9. “The space does not reflect the time, place, or the people that this building is intended to serve.”

    I would ask the author of this post and other commentators here what architectural style does reflect a modern American university community (or regular parish, for that matter). Note: not the liturgical layout, but the overall style, which is a different question. It is easy to say (and I tend to agree as a musician) that we shouldn’t just copy past styles, or pastiche together various past styles. What is much harder is to try to formulate a positive stylistic ideal. Is there a 21st century American architectural language that would be the most appropriate for today? Even if we went with a colonial style, or looked to the styles of the Scandinavian settlers of the Wisconsin area, we would be looking to the past.
    This is a loaded question, I guess – I’m just not sure that there is a particular style that accurately reflects a modern American community. Concrete brutalist architecture would be just as retro and uncreative as anything else at this point – even secular universities show little interest in that style when building these days. How about glass/steel beam construction? That seems to be a modern idiom, but not necessarily of sacred buildings. Does a new church need to be glass and beams because skyscrapers malls and office buildings are built that way? Interestingly, banks and other buildings like law offices or courthouses that want to be taken seriously tend to look for imposing, past-centered architecture and luxury accents like marble floors and wood paneling.

    I think that defining “the people the building is intended to serve” and coming up with an architectural style that somehow reflects them is a much more difficult proposition than some would like to think. And the obvious danger is that if you reflect a certain group too precisely, you can end up with a building that even 20 years later feels dated and out of place.

  10. Not to flood the comments here, but an additional thought:

    The dismissive way some commenters here treat a traditional building project like this is problematic to me on several levels. Again, I don’t think that an artistic ideal can be mere copying of a past creation. At the same time, I don’t think it is charitable or Christian behavior to stand on the outside of a worshipping community and pooh-pooh a major project that it has worked and sacrificed for years to achieve. I have a particular problem with internet commenters judging (on the basis of photos) that a space is bad, or unsuitable for the community that actually built it and uses it day to day. One inherent problem with this approach is that there are countless traditional buildings still in existence around the world (as in: the actual historical buildings that were built when a style was new and culturally organic!). Those buildings still house active communities of worshippers today, as they have for centuries. It is illogical to say that a new building in a traditional style is unsuitable for modern use, when we still have so many traditional historical buildings in daily modern use around the world. Is a copy of the past artistically ideal? I don’t think so (any more than I would like to see a composer write a symphony slavishly in the style of Mozart). However, a grounding in the past does not make a space bad for a worshipping community – the idea is silly. Otherwise, we should go ahead and abandon all those historical buildings around the world! I am the music director at a traditional-looking Cathedral in the midwest. It sits on a hill overshadowing not just other Protestant churches but the whole downtown. I can tell you that people worship here every day, and they are proud of their Cathedral. Even the city is proud to have it around, and features it prominently in promotional materials. It is not somehow magically unsuitable for a modern midwestern community simply because it is traditional in design. There needs to be more nuance here…

  11. Doesn’t St Thomas Aquinas talk about “integrity” or “completeness” as a primary characteristic of a beautiful thing? And “proportionality” or “fit”?

    Of course you can pile one traditional theme or element onto another; at some point, the result loses wholeness and integrity.

    To say that this is ugly is not an attack on tradition, but a statement about the altar as a whole.

    I have not seen the university church in question and therefore have no view on its beauty or fitness for worship. But the questions from Brandon Sanders and some of the commenters don’t strike me as at all outlandish — for example, the artistic wisdom of superimposing a Byzantine Pantocrator on a 16th century Madonna.

    Adde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit — the result may be big, but it may not be beautiful.

  12. While a number of comments may seem to be ignoring the post author’s questions, some of those comments are engaging in a questioning of assumptions embedded in the questions.

    Identifying assumptions is an often elided part of discussion and arguments and therefore weaker scholarship.

    Because it’s not easy.

    Footnote: I would heartily grant that there’s more pastiche (and a certain kitsch with the inclusion of that Raphael Madonna in that way – which flatters neither Raphael’s art nor the other aspects of the sanctuary design) to this design than I would want, both inside and outside. Also, the failure to make the sanctuary accessible for disabled or less bodily abled ministers (perhaps the design assumed they would be rare in a university community than in a parish – still, why would that assumption be *needed*?) is a notable and unnecessary failure, not a mere incidental.

    And it should be noted that the design of the previous chapel could have arguably triggered many of the same questions the post’s author raised.

    1. Karl, critiques of Rafael’s Madonna above the tabernacle are not unique to online commenters. Several St. Paul’s students and alumni I’ve talked to seem to agree that while beautiful, the Madonna is out of place in such an obstensibly Byzantine sanctuary.

      Your complaint about accessibility is also one that ought to be taken more seriously by contemporary church architects, though this is by no means unique to traditionalists. The cathedral in nearby Milwaukee received a controversial Vosko inspired renovation 15 years ago that similarly neglected accessibility features for the altar and ambo (you can get to the tabernacle though). I’m frankly surprised this is still such a common oversight in church design considering how old ADA is now. This really does deserve more attention than many parish communities and architects are giving it.

      1. Understood.

        Btw, my favorite large Western icon cruficix:

        http://c8.alamy.com/comp/KBNNET/crucifix-by-giotto-1270-1337-c1288-90-church-of-santa-maria-novella-KBNNET.jpg

        A lot of people who studied sacred art in the past generation or two don’t know about Giotto’s crucifix at S Maria Novella in Florence. There are a few reasons perhaps why. It was for a VERY long time not in in good shape, not in the spot it was designed for, and was not authenticated to by the master. Also, it was out of sight completely during the generation it took to restore it and authenticate it in time for the 2000 Jubilee, though the authentication process continued thereafter. That’s been only reflected in much more recent books.

        https://www.amazon.com/Giotto-Crucifix-Santa-Maria-Novella/dp/3422065180

  13. I thought I quite liked the exterior, until looking more closely I found myself drawn to the image of a couple hosting an afternoon television chat show. But perhaps that genre looks different in the USA, I am, televisually, in England.

  14. Btw, in terms of dominance of the space, the original proposal involved a much taller edifice, 14 stories high, and was scaled back. The drive for size seems to have been based more on packing in space for a variety of purposes – typical of university bureaucracies fond of universal widget buildings – more than ecclesiastical one upmanship.

    http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt_and_politics/st-paul-s-proposes-new-catholic-center-on-campus/article_1b5c4aec-4283-11df-b597-001cc4c002e0.html

    That said, the facade elevation as built does look a bit like a bulldog-face-thing that skidded distractedly into a wall. And it doesn’t take much to still be less repulsive than the carbuncle facade of the old chapel (and, for the record, there are Brutalist buildings that I am fond of). There was a phase of modern design that reminds one too much of this piece of wisdom: just because one can do something doesn’t mean one ought to do it. I certainly don’t want to be forced by an “Innovative Church Design” to echo Natalie Wood in the car en route to the conclusion of “Miracle on 34th Street” because Kris Kringle is not there to pull off the miracle after all.

  15. Whatever the flaws in the design of their church may be, the folks of St. Paul’s deserve credit for commissioning a substantial organ (pipe organ, that is, and not something electronic or “hybrid”) from a first-rate builder.

    1. Is the *sanctuary* accessible? That was the specific issue in discussion – from the photo it does not appear that that there is any ramp to the sanctuary and predella.

  16. For what it’s worth, the most deeply spiritual experiences of my life were in that plain concrete church with antiphonal seating surrounding the celebrants. The liturgy itself was absolutely the central focus, surrounded by the community of faith. All were truly welcome in that place. I have not set foot in the new byzantine behemoth. Its garish exterior mosaic and the photos I’ve seen of the interior, frankly, make me kind of ill.

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