Built of Living Stones 187-189: The Parish Self-Study

Preface

§ 187 § By their design and construction, church buildings serve the rites of the Church and the devotion of the people, fostering their encounter with God who dwells in all holiness,(SC 122) and reflecting the faith of the people and the culture in which they live. Ideally the church building will be designed so that it also responds to the local environment. While the church building belongs to the Church, its visual aspects belong to its neighbors. In addition, there must be a concern for the impact of the building on its natural surroundings; that is, the site on which it will be located and the resources available there.

The principle of harmony with surroundings is well-taken. Not in the sense, I think, of blending in, but more of being complementary with the surroundings. These days, of course, green considerations are in play.

Keep in touch with one’s history, the bishops advise:

§ 188 § Parishioners may have some sense of the history of the parish, but it is helpful to sharpen the common knowledge of church members at the beginning of the project. This review can consider the origins of the parish; its evolving identity within the local community; and the social, political, economic, and religious elements that have shaped its life. Among other things, the parish will want to reflect on the cultures represented in its members, the geographical and historical factors that have contributed to its development, significant aspects of the community’s liturgical and devotional life, and changes that have already taken place in the building in which its members worship.

… and involve the people:

§ 189 § During the study it may be helpful to invite parishioners to contribute photographs of weddings, first communions, baptisms, and other sacramental and seasonal events. These photos, arranged chronologically, can provide graphic evidence of the changes that the church building has already undergone. The archives of local and diocesan newspapers also can provide material that will help in piecing together the story of the parish over the years.

This is more than just simple sentimentality. I think the emotional and cultural connections to the past may inspire people of the present day to maintain, advance, and appreciate the whole story of the faith community.

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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