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Flemish artist shows you how
If the church in the image above doesn’t look quite right – its because its not. Constructed next to a cycle track in Belgium, using 30 tons of steel and 2000 columns it is an outdoor artwork commissioned by the contemporary art museum in Hasselt. Though it has a certain ethereal beauty to it – there is neither room nor comfort to use it as a worshipping space. The artist, inspired by the shape of the (largely vacant) churches around about him, describes it as ‘the traditional church transformed into a transparent object of art’.
Seven years ago the church where I work was transformed by chopping out the middle and creating a two-storey high glass atrium. (You can see a picture here) The effect of this transparency on the local community has been magnetic- and I’m pleased to say that the building is nearly always busy.
In the speeded-up film below,you will see Van Varenbergh’s construction come together in a matter of seconds. Of course it really took much longer than that. Constructing a properly transparent church at the heart of the community takes even longer – but it is definitely worth it.
I think this video really needs a soundtrack – any suggestions?
Delving into the archives
After a lively and broad-ranging discussion on buses, advertising et al, it seemed like a good moment today for a commercial break. Back in the days before Building Societies were banks and ‘bank’ became a dirty word, the advert below was often to be seen on our television screens. There is a kind of simple charm to it, brought about by everything from the vintage Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young soundtrack to the theatrical ‘staging’. Not only that, but there’s something about it that wouldn’t be a bad advert for the collaborative venture which we call church, too.
…and missing the door
I have written before on here about my uneasy relationship with navigation, and shown German artist Gavin Nolte’s views on the dangers of sat navs. I can only speculate about what Nolte would say regarding yesterday’s story of pensioners Hilda and Eric Davies. They were apparently concentrating so hard on their sat nav’s three-dimensional display of the route to Oberallgau’s historic church that they smashed straight into it. There is now a car-shaped hole in the church’s wall, and extensive interior damage.Newspapers around the world, from Austria to India, Croatia to Florida, have picked up on the story and accompanied it with dubious headlines about ‘the road to heaven’.
Some years ago we had a couple arrive late here for a service, as their sat nav had sent them to Teddington Methodist Church instead of Teddington Baptist church. I suppose we can’t really expect such a device to be sensitive to the niceties of denominational differences!
What has struck me most about the coverage of this story, though, is the lack of rancour. Neither the local police in Oberallgau nor the priest in charge of the church have been quoted as saying anything beyond that this was an unfortunate accident and that they were concerned for the couple’s well-being. How refreshing! Years ago I worked in a church where there was still a yellowing notice in the church hall declaring that “ball games should not be played – by order of the Deacon’s Court”. Once in a while it was knocked down by a low-flying football, but always replaced for old-time’s sake!
Church buildings are a blessed and sacred resource, but we should be careful not to over-emphasise their importance.
What goes on inside?
Years ago I remember sitting in the congregation at a student mission hearing the speaker explaining the necessity of faith to salvation. He talked about how you just had to take certain things on trust, and how other things would only make sense after ‘making the leap’ to faith. He was right, of course, but somehow he just wasn’t capturing it for me.
A couple of years later, when I found myself ‘on the other side of the pulpit’, so to speak, I was casting round for a means to explain exactly that same truth. The previous occupants of our house had left behind them a roll of stained-glass cellophane – presumably an old Christmas decoration. Many times since then I have used it as an illustration of faith – noting how a stained glass window looks like nothing from the outside of an unlit church, but it is only when you go inside and see the light streaming through that it is transformed. The step of faith, in through the church door, makes all the difference.
Apart from its startling beauty, two things strike me about the picture. The first is that the light is being generated inside the house. I wonder whether the same could be said of the church? The second is that in the photo above the church in the background is completely eclipsed by Fruin’s little house. It looks dull, angular, and somewhat intimidating by comparison.