If You Have to Ask, “Is that the Church?” It’s Time to Call an Architect

If You Have to Ask, “Is that the Church?” It’s Time to Call an Architect September 27, 2014

Last month I had the chance to visit Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s parish, Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC.   Google Maps was mostly-faithful, and I found the parish school without too much trouble.  I was a little early for Mass, but figured I’d park where the other people were parking, then wander around until I found the church.

What was I looking for?  The school buildings were a classic collection done in the style of Low-Slung Mid-Century Frugal Southerner, complete with outdoor walkways connecting the classrooms in lieu of hallways.  I’m quite at home with this genre, so I looked around for a church building to match.

There was a bulky airplane-hangar-type structure done in a similar style to the classroom buildings, probably the school gym or cafeteria.  There was a lady standing outside, friendly, holding a stack of papers in her hand.  I approached her.  She gave me a bulletin.

Usually the person handing out bulletins stands near the entry to the church.

This was my clue.

“Is this the church?” I asked.  I did not like to ask this question.  It seemed like an awful thing to have to say about a cafeteria.

She must have thought I coughed, or said, “Good morning,” or something like that.  She said something kind in reply, along the lines of “Welcome to our parish.”

I pointed to the door she was standing in front of, and repeated my question.  “So, um, is this the church then?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Is that where I go in? To the church? Is that it?”

“Oh yes.  Yes.  That’s the church.”

I looked inside.  I came back outside.  Father Longenecker came up, and he chatted with me, unprompted, about the building project they had in the works.  It was as if he thought, somehow, this required explaining.

The great thing about authentic architecture is that it speaks for itself.  In this case, a mid-century cinder-block school gymnasium begging to be released from the sacred work for which it was never made, the way an 80’s Toyota Corolla really does not want to be your moving van.

If you have ask, “Is this the church?” it’s time for a new building.  I wrote my check for the building fund and stuck it in the offering.  Consider doing likewise.

It’s easy to know exactly what this is.  No one will mistake it for the dentist office, the power company, or the gymnasium.  When people are looking for Jesus, they look for one of these.

Image courtesy of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church

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