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The Episcopal Church Welcomes You– if you can find the actual door

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You– if you can find the actual door

At my church, visitors cannot figure out where our front door is. The place, a traditional cathedral structure, is a fortress. Beautiful? Yes. Cold and unwelcoming? Probably, at least for first-time visitors.

So I read with interest a recent commentary by Carin Ruff about Episcopal worship space and access. She writes about two churches, starting with Saint Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill:

In both cases, progressive, welcoming congregations with landmarked neo-medieval buildings have sought to reconfigure their worship space for modern liturgical sensibilities and practices. In the process, they have reoriented access to their church buildings in a way that seeks to deformalize the approach to the building and erase distinctions among parts of the worshipping community, but which in fact ends up disorienting and segregating some users of the space.

As a liturgical church, one that expresses its theology through movement and action, the Episcopal Church needs to grapple with its built environment whenever it makes an adjustment in practice or doctrine. A change in attitude towards the sacred means a change in who goes where and who does what, not just in what is said or read or sung. The Episcopal Church in America has tended to be conservative and antiquarian in its architectural taste. For reasons of theology, Anglophilia, and cultural capital, Episcopal churches are more likely than others in the American landscape to be elaborate, medievalizing buildings whose layout and decoration lag a generation or several behind the practices and beliefs of the congregations that use them.

Read entire post here. I would love to know of churches that have found creative ways to combine our traditional, much beloved architecture, with the welcoming theology and practice we must create if we are to thrive.


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Hi, Carin here. I’m so happy my post proved thought-provoking! I just wanted to clarify that the church I wrote about was St. Mark’s, Capitol Hill, *DC*. I know both Washingtons have a Capitol Hill, but this is the eastern (and hotter) one. I should have the followup post, on Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, up tomorrow.

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