The building that our church worships in may be the prettiest church in the county. If it’s not, I have no doubt that the prettiest church in the county is another Methodist church. We’re lucky. We have no competition in that regard. There are no high church Presbyterians, Episcopalians or Catholics to outrank us. We don’t even have a Lutheran church, so we’re the only ones who think in terms of pretty when we build.
I know the “If it looks Catholic, we shouldn’t do it” protestant history of why my Baptist and CofC brothers and sisters worship in such plain surroundings, but I don’t think their rationale holds up. And I know there are pretty Baptist churches out there, just not in this county.
There are some issues with having a pretty sanctuary. I know that, but I don’t see how having an ugly one is the alternative. My preferred alternative would be NO sanctuary.
I’ve mentioned before how I’m not sure what to think about new church starts. Part of my hesitancy is because it seems like all new church starts come with a mortgage. Granted, because Methodists believe that the sacraments should be given by an ordained elder, it would be difficult to have new Methodist churches that are cell groups of 10 or 15 people, but does that mean we shouldn’t do it?
The words kyriakon and ekklesia have both come to be “church” but it seems to me that despite our “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…” type hymns we still are tied to the buildings almost to the point of idolatry. I suppose that’s why some make ugly sanctuaries, as a way of fighting that, a way of making the space less attractive, more utilitarian.
Cell churches, house church, “new” monasticism all intrigue me. They seem to help emphasize the people of God rather than the house. Maybe they’ll help us all to be less tied to our buildings, whether they’re pretty or not.