Built of Living Stones 98-99: The Area Surrounding the Church Building

The following section, while not footnoted, contains some common sense advice for how the Church is presented to the neighborhood.

§ 98 § When constructed and maintained well, the outside of a church can proclaim the Gospel to the city or town in which it is located. Even before the members of the worshiping community enter through the doors of the building, the external environment with its landscaping, artwork, and lighting can contribute to a gracious approach to the place of worship. Creative landscaping that separates the entrance to the church from the parking area as well as well-placed religious art can facilitate the spiritual transition as people move to a sense of communal worship. Appropriate signage can provide information and can offer hospitality and an invitation to enter the space for worship. Walkways with well designed patterns of stone or other materials subtly contribute to the awareness that believers are about to enter holy ground. When choosing a site for a church, consideration should be given to the possibility of landscaped setback so that the church building is not completely surrounded by the parking lot.

An appeal for real bells would have been nice. But the point of bells is largely lost on modern Catholics in my country. Synthesized bell sounds pushed out hidden speakers seems more the rule.

§ 99 § It is an ancient practice to summon the Christian people to the liturgical assembly or to alert them to important happenings in the local community by means of bells. The peal of bells is an expression of the sentiments of the People of God as they rejoice or grieve, offer thanks or petition, gather together and show outwardly the mystery of their oneness in Christ.

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Built of Living Stones 98-99: The Area Surrounding the Church Building

  1. Liam says:

    Yes to designing with real bells, even if the design element is not fulfilled for a century. I live in an area where church bells are still commonly heard. Including real ones. Hey, IIRC (or at least into the past 20 years), one of the churches in Concord MA still rings a nightly curfew bell (a medieval legacy the Puritans did not object to, it seems).

    And then I consider Old Town Cambridge (the oldest area of Cambridge MA, around Harvard), and its many towers and spires with real bells: it can be a real treat to hear them all going off at once. Then, at 1PM during Harvard’s session, there are the (now copies of) the Danilovsky monastery bells rung at Lowell House…. It’s not pre-Revolution Moscow or Victorian London, but it’s still very wonderful.

  2. Liam says:

    As for parking: the need for oceans of asphalt for parking is one of the sorriest aspects of landscaping American churches these days; I prefer a landscaped terrace over an below-grade parking area (reduces the cost of snow removal in the winter…). One of the interesting quirks in Boston is the unwritten tradition of permitting parking in the middle of the avenue on Sunday morning while churches are holding services (as well as permitting parking in certain no-parking or residential-only parking areas). Learning the patterns can take time and conversation, shall we say.

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