Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting familiar with the layout of the church building

I came across this link which I'm sharing here.  It is a pdf which shows the basics of the interior set up of LDS church buildings.   As I understand it, the LDS church building that we attend is not the same building that many of the long term members attended back when it was the 'white chapel building on the hill'. Since I don't have an earlier history to compare it to, I am getting acquainted with the church building as it relates to other church buildings where I have spent time, ie, the Episcopal Church, other Protestant denominational churches, Methodist, Baptist, community churches, Buddhism, Shinto, Native American.   Having grown up a child of military family, there was a lot of moving around, and attending churches in the proximity of where we resided at the time.   I am initially struck by the absence of many elements that I am more familiar with, as the cross icon,  alter, candles, banners, but otherwise there are striking similarities.  The pews, the chapel part, the dais or choir section, the hospitality room.  The LDS church includes in it's buildings what is called a cultural hall which serves as a multi-purpose room, has sports (basketball) markings on the wood floor, foldable round tables and chairs, so the room is used for social, holiday, funeral, children's and family activities.  It also has separate rooms where the lessons are held separately for children; women; men.

It continues to take me some acclimation to get used to what is not there, while also embracing what is there that hasn't been there in other churches I've attended.  I do miss the candles.  Lighting a candle in  prayer for someone or something happening in one's personal life.  I do miss the ritual of the Episcopal Eucharist.  While the LDS Sacrament is ritualistic, I do prefer the elements of the Eucharist. I can easily get used to the absence of the cross, but unlike the views of the LDS church, which state they do not wish to worship His suffering, I have too long a history in viewing the cross in a quiet, personal spiritual manner that is not likely offensive to Him or others in that it is merely a different way to show reverence and respect.

However, there are many elements in the LDS services that I find I am appreciating as also a show of reverence and respect in a different format.  I do a lot of mental translation in trying to recognize similarities while appreciating differences.  On the one hand, as I understand it the earlier Mormon church did not want to replicate elements of Catholic worship services and were opposed to rote repetitions.  On the other hand, whenever anyone in the LDS church in these modern times gives a 'testimony', I often hear rote repetitions along the lines of bearing testimony that has some stock phrasing (those who know it will know what I mean).

I value the parts of those personal testimonies that tell a bit of story the person is wishing to share, and I value that for the most part the person sharing is quite moved by what he/she is sharing.  I value that others are moved by their testimonies, enough sometimes to generate tears of sympathy or empathy or both.  I appreciate the efforts at respect that are demonstrated one to another.  Where that falls down, in my opinion, is in the reinforcement of what is considered 'doctrinally correct' which has the effect of shutting down further discussion/conversation.  For me developing the conversation requires differing views be shared respecfully, which is a process whereby people can consider varying view points and get to a place of arriving at personal conclusions, which are subject to change in accordance with their own life experiences.

Back to the church building.  Overall I am pleased to arrive at the building, knowing a bit more about what will take place in the building.   I am pleased with the concepts of the attentiveness to who will be using the rooms and for what purpose.  I love the concept of the cultural hall, even while I'm not sure that I like socializing in a basketball court.   A familiar concept to me is that for the most part what I am participating in that day is what is happening in LDS churches internationally.  For the most part there is some similarity to the Episcopal rotational study for services used internationally, even while doctrinally the beliefs of the two churches are quite different. I like the antiquity of the Episcopal church building we attended, and I like the modern convenience of the LDS church building we attend now.

 I like church buildings in general, and often think I wouldn't mind living in one, a sacred space in which to have a home.  I've seen church buildings converted to restaurants, and occasionally converted to a home space.   I've seen church buildings abandoned, and feel sadness knowing that their time of useage has passed, wondering who will purchase the building and how it will be used.  I think I feel the sadness of the loss of the sense of the sacredness of the space, even while I appreciate the cathedral nature provides us, mostly free of charge. Somehow though, I don't think  LDS church buildings would convert so easily to another kind of space useage.  Maybe I need a bit more time with the building so that it takes on the intimacy for me that I have found in other church building spaces.

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