Megachurches often run afoul because of the challenges of large membership, either they cannot have a staff large enough to cater to the individual needs of such a large lay, or they lose themselves by having such a bombastic building.
As mentioned here before, Mrs. TAE and I have been thoroughly enjoying Church of the Resurrection, the Methodist megachurch here in south KC. I hate to call it a megachurch because I like it there, but frankly, it fits in just about every way. We sit near the front, and attend the Sunday evening service, to avoid the claustrophobia of the large population of members.
COR is an enjoyable place, their minister is a brilliant speaker, if casually dressed, and their services are uplifting and enjoyable. Their music is very fun, though the playlist seems a bit small. Mrs. and I have found the nursery acceptable for the baby, and we see no reason to go anywhere else. Plus, they have communion, a must for TAE.
But I must, since I'm in such a mood today, heavily criticize whomever it was that designed that building. Utilitarian is a good word for it. There simply aren't any architectural features to it. The exterior is gray, mostly windowless, and rectangular. The interior of the sanctuary has no ceiling, and all the exposed guts of the sanctuary are exposed. The stage has an unusually low ceiling, so the choir in the back seems almost tucked up under the ceiling. The band area overflows into the main part of the stage, so that Hamilton, while preaching, seems trapped on one half of the stage by the massive Steinway.
The whole setup, from the massive screens too far to stage left and stage right, to the intense lighting that washes out the soloist choir while casting shadow over the main choir, to Hamilton's use of glasses during a sermon and not wearing contacts so his eyes are rendered invisible by the glare from the lighting, to the stadium seating setup, where the back seats are a full 40' higher than the seats at row one, all tend to make one feel they are not at a service; they are at a show.
Once again, I enjoy going there, and if ever there was a church where you should judge it by the people who form it, this would be the one. But COR stands as a poignant example of not using architecture to convey the beauty and wonder that is God.
When lost in awesome wonder, do members of the church lay their head back and stare up, only to see black, 40' spiral ductwork tucked up amongst steel beams?
Now don't take it personally, any COR member (or God forbid Rev. Hamilton finds this, I'll be instantly rebuked). The fact is, churches are at the mercy of architects and engineers, and the creativity of the design team is usually entirely independent of the church-goers collective will. So many churches now are being built literally wherever they can find space, like Heartland, which is building a church inside a renovated furniture warehouse. Others actually buy prefabricated, steel buildings and make that their home. These are fine decisions; the churches cannot possibly be judged for it, they did what they could with what they had. But in some cases the church had the means to build a beautiful building, or at least a building with something special to it, and instead they chose to hedge their bets on a slab building that resembles 1970's hospital construction.
Since when did stain glass become restrictively expensive? Surely it cannot cost more than those double-pane, low-e fixed windows that adorn the children's wing?
Anyway, I digress, but since I am attending COR every Sunday night, and every Sunday night I think the same thing, here it is: build a ceiling. If the church had a "special offering, please put in 20 dollars for a ceiling/renovation" offering one week, they'd bring in around a quarter million dollars. Believe me (since I work in the industry), that would buy you an amazing ceiling. My recommendation would be to cover the ceiling with semi-transparent tileing or sheets, and then nest LED lighting displays behind it. The lighting displays would naturally oscillate through the color spectrum, so the whole ceiling became a low intensity kaleidoscope. People, filled with the Holy Spirit, upon tilting their heads back, would be bathed in a myriad of exotic colors. It would be a spectacle of God's grace unlike any seen in the city or world even. It would mix the latest technologies with the desire for a church to fill people with awe.
But anyway, naked ductwork is no way to treat a church ceiling. Nor is this how you design a good church.
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