Architectural Assumptions

What does the architecture of a worship space tell us about the builder’s beliefs about baptism?  –in the case of these two lovely places, it tells us a lot (I’d argue that any religious space will tell you a lot theologically, but that’s for another day).

St. Francis Chapel – Kanuga, North Carolina

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This humble little outdoor chapel almost made me cry when I came upon it early one morning.  Do you see the bridges leading over the creek from the congregational area to the altar?  One literally goes through water to arrive at the Eucharistic table.  We first experience baptism, the washing of our bodies that signifies the washing to which we submit our souls through Jesus’ sacrifice.  We then may approach the altar where we are fed, spiritually and in other ways, by Jesus’ sacrifice.  It’s really all about Jesus’ work–hence the cross you see over the altar.

…and another bit of architectural theology, from Minnesota (and the Roman Catholic Church).

Church of the Holy Spirit in St. Cloud, the parish from which my great-grandma was buried this May, has had a significant impact on my understanding of liturgical theology (half is this, explained here, and the other half will wait for another time).

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This is their baptismal font.  Do you see how it’s clearly meant to be used by adults as well as babies?  This piece of furniture will make the baptizan wet.  They will be drenched, if they kneel on the rock underneath the water flow.  It’s at least better than a sprinkle, and more significant still that this parish built its object used for the entrance rite into Christian life to be used by both infants and grown ups.  What kind of assumptions have Christians made in the past when baptismal fonts became little marble bowls?

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