What is a church, really?

In our culture a growing number of people are saying “no” to religion and “yes” to spirituality. In this context, what really is the function of a church? Just a building? Or something more.

A church is…

If you can, set aside your preconceived notions of “church” for a few moments. Consider some of the functions of a contemporary “church”: auditorium, cafe, school, dinner theatre, resource centre, food bank, clothing depot, child care facility, counselling centre, coffee shop, meeting room, performing arts space, library, voting station, conference centre, workshop, funeral venue, wedding venue.

Why do churches do these things?

Quest for meaning

These types of activities begin to satisfy our basic human need for meaning. As we dwell in community with others we begin to identify with a way of being in the world, whether we want to call it Spirituality or Religion. Life is lived in community. Buildings have an essential role to play as a platform to support the human drama, a background for everything we do. Listen to Karsten Harries: “Should architecture not continue to help us find our place and way in an ever more disorienting world?

The power of architecture

I am completely convinced about the power of architecture to anchor us in place and time.To give us a reference point in an infinite expanding universe. To nourish the human soul. To provide space that is so much more than merely practical square footage. Architect Juhani Pallasmaa writes that “buildings enable us to recognize and remember who we are”. Read that again and let it sink in. Buildings can really do that? Architecture can be that powerful, but it has to happen on purpose, by design.

Spaces for community

Maybe we need a new term; a “church”, if we can still call it that, can be so much more than mere shelter. Our world needs more inspiring, powerful spaces that really enable us to build community.

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One Response to Is a church more than just a building?

  1. Beryl says:

    I totally agree I like to call a church a multi purpose community center

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