Thinking about church architecture

When hurricane Katrina slammed into the gulf coast, Lakeshore took the brunt of the winds and a massive storm surge. People have asked us, “was your church destroyed?” We have answered, “no – Katrina did not destroy our church. She did completely wash away our buildings. We only found bits and pieces of strewn rubble and the concrete blocks the buildings used to sit on. The hurricane did destroy our buildings, but the church still stands strong.”

The week after the storm we salvaged a few folding chairs, built a make shift pew, set them where the old building used to sit, pulled the pulpit out of the muddy woods and gathered to sing praise to our almighty sustaining sovereign God and gain stability from the preached word. We later erected a blue tarped shelter to provide shade from the blazing sun. We drug the fiberglass steeple from where it landed and set it up beside the road. A couple of months in, we moved into an air conditioned quonset hut. For thanksgiving we worshiped in a big white tent and moved into a metal building a couple of weeks before Christmas. We now look forward to building full facilities, complete with a spacious sanctuary, offices, educational space, nursery, fellowship hall, fully equip kitchen, indoor restrooms, and storage space. What will these buildings look like and what will drive the design process?

Architect Daniel Lee observed, “What I sense and see in my own involvement in the religious community, and in my reading, is that most Christians cannot begin a conversation on architecture.” This week I would like to open that conversation. What should a church consider as it rebuilds all new church buildings? We have learned that deep rich authentic worship can exist without structures, in awkward locations, and under the worst of circumstances. Does that mean that buildings should serve as nothing more than pragmatic tools of minimalistic shelter? Should we simply decide how much space we need and design accordingly, or should we consider other factors? I would love to get some feedback this week as Lakeshore Baptist Church grapples with these and other questions. Comments to my blog have become somewhat scarce in the last couple of months. For those still reading, let me hear what you think.