THE COMMUNITY is often a forgotten symbol in discussions about church buildings. The community is not an audience. The community is not passive.
Hence, the way the community gathers is extremely important.
The entrance procession of the community begins from our home, with cars and walking, and other means.
How are we welcomed into the building?
Does it speak of inclusiveness of all ages, all abilities, openness,…?
Is there a gathering space?
How is the community seating arranged? Facing each other; in a circle; in semi-circles; on uncomfortable pews; on chairs that speak of audience, that speak of a lounge, of a short stay for a coffee,…
Is the arrangement permanent? Or varying (say quite different in Lent to the Easter Season)? Is the space used mainly or solely for worship?
Does the community stand together (the primary Christian posture for prayer), for example, without chairs around an altar? What of those who find it difficult to stand a long time?
Is the choir or music group seen to be part of the assembly or is the assembly seen as an audience for the choir? How is this expressed architecturally?
For centuries the presider came from the congregation, through the congregation and faced in the same direction as the congregation as the community prayed together. That might be expressed differently now. From where does the presider preside? Within the community or separated from the community? Does leadership for parts of the service (reading, leading the prayers) arise from within the community or reinforce an audience model?
How is all this expressed architecturally?
This post is, hopefully, useful for a number of contexts. It is particularly offered as one in a series for reflection as we begin planning the building of a number of church buildings after the closing of dozens of church buildings because of the Canterbury earthquakes.
Can you add some ideas, responses, even further questions to help people’s reflections…