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Our Buildings Shape Us

Sagrada Familia
Looking up in the nave of the Sagrada Familia

Someone recently sent me an article with the title “One in six young people are Christian as visits to church buildings inspire them to convert” about a study that indicates that for young people a visit to a cathedral or church building has been more significant in their decision to become a Christian than, say, Youth Alpha or attending a youth group.

The summary of the results of the study is found here.
A more detailed account of the results is found here.

The study finds that reading the Bible is important. And church schools are important in facilitating faith. But church buildings have a similar impact.

I have written more than once how important it is that church buildings be open (to say the least, there is the scandal of owning expensive property that is only used for an hour or so a week). Interestingly, the article shows that locked churches are more likely to be burgled than open ones. I have also written about how architecture affects the soul.

Friend and fellow-kiwi-blogger Peter Carrell, writing about this study, says it well:

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make what you will of the stats but if there is something in them then we should revise our cliched formulae about “church is people, not buildings.”

Just maybe, perhaps and possibly church buildings contribute to making church people.

I have drawn the title of this post from a speech of Sir Winston Churchill. We are very used to thoughts akin to “The church makes the eucharist and the eucharist makes the church.” Churchill’s reflection parallels this thought. On 28 October 1943, in a speech whether the House of Commons should be restored after its destruction, Churchill said,

We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.

More than a year ago, I wrote the blog post, Architecture Affects My Soul. There I said,

whilst the church is the people, and the building is there to stop the church (ie. the people) from getting wet – the building affects us as well…

I also encourage interested readers to reflect further on what is placed within the worship space:

And don’t forget the tag “architecture” leads to other associated posts.

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4 Responses to Our Buildings Shape Us

  1. Buildings shape us. I think that is part of the angst in Canterbury over the cathedral. This building has shaped Canterbury in a way that, arguably, only the cathedral in Nelson has done for any other region in NZ.

    • Yes, Peter. There is much we can draw from this – that buildings do affect us; putting up the least expensive, safe set of glass-and-steel boxes would not make a city for humans; our (Anglican) church buildings mean more to the surrounding community than we might have realised (than they themselves might have realised);… Blessings.

      [For overseas readers unaware of what Peter is referring to, Christchurch (NZ) sits in the province of Canterbury, rocked by the destructive series of earthquakes which destroyed so much. There have been years of controversy whether to reinstate the Christchurch Anglican cathedral at the city’s heart or build a new building. The building was significantly underinsured – about 40% of reinstating can be covered by the church’s “replacement insurance”. The government has offered some financial assistance. There will be a vote about this at the diocesan synod in September.]

  2. Sunday Telegraph 18.06.17. Research by Church statistical Dr. Brierley in 2006. Only on av. 5 1/2% but Dec. 2016 up to 13% of teenagers. Jimmy Dale , the Church of England’s youth evangelism officer shocked by results from Hope Revolution partnership carried out by ComRes did not publish these results until Another study by Youth for Christ showed similar results. “Old hat methods are some of the more effective ways”.. ( prayer and church buildings more effective ) “A wake up call for the church” said Mr. Dale. The Bp. Of Worcester and lead Bp. For churches and church buildings said”This shows power of church buildings”

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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