Built of Living Stones 9: EACW

Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (EACW) was the worthy predecessor document to BLS.

§ 9 § In the United States, the committee statement Environment and Art in Catholic Worship was published by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in 1978.6 This statement has had a profound impact on the building and renovation of parish churches in the United States. Parish communities have studied, discussed, and disagreed about the document; many liturgical design consultants have utilized the text in parish education programs; and architects have tried to transform the underlying principles and theology into brick and mortar, stone and glass. Twenty-two years after the publication of Environment and Art, the bishops of the United States present a new document on church art and architecture that builds on and replaces Environment and Art and addresses the needs of the next generation of parishes engaged in building or renovating churches. Built of Living Stones reflects our understanding of the liturgy, of the role and importance of church art and architecture, and of the integral roles of the local parish and the diocese that enter into a building or renovation project.

BLS is a much heftier document, well more than twice the length of its 1978 predecessor. BLS rather understates the study/discussion/disagreement experience with EACW, which was wildly controversial in some communities. EACW gets a bad rap for the impression it was iconoclastic. But my sense is that photography of Edward Sovik’s work that accompanied many editions rather tilted the impression of the document in a certain way.

That said, there was great value to be found by many parishes that took formation with the document seriously, and delved deeply into the principles of the liturgy. As we’ve already read, the formation process itself is so important. With their pastors, liturgical leaders, and building professionals, communities can experience personally and socially a kind of construction. One pastor I worked with in grad school who was assigned to a new parish often preached that it was important for the people to form community first. The building would come once the community was formed.

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


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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