Chch bishop: Modernist church designs haven’t helped liturgy

Generally, modernist styles of church design have not served the liturgy well, the Bishop of Christchurch has written in a new document.

Bishop Barry Jones has issued “The House of God”, to inform and guide Christchurch diocese in the task of building churches.

Aimed at parishes wanting to build or repair and strengthen a church since the earthquakes, the document emphasises that churches in the diocese will be beautiful, traditional and places of worship and prayer.

Bishop Jones echoed Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Conciliam (124) in calling the church building “the House of God”.

He said such buildings should be able to be recognised as Catholic churches.

“It is a sacred place set aside for the sublime prayer of the liturgy and for personal private prayer. It is not a multipurpose building.”

“The church building itself should reflect the transcendence of God, the beauty of his holiness and the divine truth he has entrusted to his Church.”

Describing the altar as the “point of convergence of all that happens in a church”, Bishop Jones wrote that “it is not correct historically to claim that in early Christian churches the altar was at the centre, nor should it be”.

“Rather it should be at head of the assembly and the church building ought not be in the shape of a theatre or a stadium,” he wrote.

“Generally modernist styles have not served the liturgy well. In building a new church parishes should seek architects capable of using traditional styles . . . but not simply replicating a particular church,” the document continues.

Examples of suitable styles include Gothic (Darfield) and Classical Revival (Cathedral).

At several points in the document, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal is cited.

The document also states the essential division in a church is between sanctuary and nave.

“This reflects the differentiation of the ministry which derives from Holy Orders and the ministries which derive from Baptism and Confirmation.”

The document also states pews are to have kneelers and confessionals should be visible, but should afford privacy to penitents who desire it.


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