Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ugly churches, take two

So, continuing on my central Florida theme, this is a great opportunity to delve back into the arena of modern church architecture. This is found in abundance on each of my trips to this region. The church that my mother-in-law attends, St. Ann's, definitely falls into this category. Each time I go, I scratch my head at what new things about it bother me. Now, I need to clarify that of course attending Mass is the most important thing, regarless of the beauty (or lack thereof) in the church building itself. That being said, I find modern churches harder for me to enjoy worshipping in. It's just a personal preference.

So anyway, what I dislike about St. Ann's is manyfold. Is that a word? Anyway, it's large and pointy and sort of vacuous. Here's a particular pet peeve: it has *abstract* stained glass. Isn't the point of stained glass to tell the Gospel story? Sigh. Not sure what is up with this, but bulletins aren't left out in the open so that just any Catholic librarian can snap one up while coming into Mass for perusual during the collection. They're squirreled away and then doled out after Mass by the ushers. Why? Don't they trust us to not read them during the homily? But the thing that bothers me the most about this church layout is that the tabernacle isn't at the front. It's in the back, in the daily Mass chapel. This bothers me quite a bit. The Eucharist is a central part of our faith, and it should be central in our worship spaces.

Those are the constants. Each time I go to Mass there, I notice something else. Like this time, when I went to Mass for the feast of Mary, Mother of God. We go in, sit down, attempt to pray. Suddenly, we're interrupted by the music director, guitar in hand:

"ok everybody, the opening hymn is going to be 'God is With Us,' Number 553 in your hymnals. Let's practice the opening verse together."

I won't relay what went through my head, because it was most uncharitable. I don't want to practice hymns before Mass unless I'm in the choir, particularly not when they're being led by a guitar. Guitars in other contexts are fine, but I loathe them in Mass. And I really don't want to be coaxed to sing by a bossy music director.

The following Saturday evening, Mike and I were going to dinner in another town, so chose to find a church nearer the restaurant where we could attend the vigil. Well holy smokes. We pull up, and Mike says "oh look, there it is." I look up, and swear to God, I averted my eyes. This church was so ugly, it was like I had seen something disturbing. I may have actually shuddered. The inside was even worse. Abstract stained glass abounded, and the entire shebang looked like a convention center. I couldn't find the holy water fonts, and then realized I was supposed to have used the immersion baptismal pool for these purposes. And this isn't architecture-related, but Florida-related: it was so bloody cold from the a/c, the pages of my Missal were blowing in the artificially forced breeze. It was 70 degrees outside; why on *earth* would we need air conditioning? We're not polar bears.

Anyway, the liturgy was actually quite nice, I was pleasantly surprised. No bossy music director in sight. Just a simple organist with a trio of excellent singers. Given that it was the Epiphany, there was a holographic star up above the altar, which I rolled my eyes at. The priest made a really good joke though about the star, saying he feared he was having a vision when he first saw it. "You do also see this star, don't you?!"

So, ugly church #2 in fact turned out better than I would have anticipated. I just don't understand why "new" always has to be translated into "modern." I go by the "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" mentality.

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