Built of Living Stones 206-210: The Site Plan

Let’s take a look at “The Design of the Church and Its Surroundings: Special Concerns”

§ 206 § The unity of God’s people is both expressed and brought about in the gathering of the eucharistic assembly.(Lumen Gentium 11) Since the church building is fundamentally a place where God and his gathered people meet, care should be exercised in designing the entire complex of site and church building so that it will serve this gathering of the faithful that is essential to liturgical worship.(SC 10)

We are, while at worship, a body gathered (the word is used three times) by God. Does the entire church site facilitate this?

§ 207 § The design of the area surrounding the church can integrate trees, shrubs, and flowers with places for outdoor gathering and for quiet meditation. While there is no maintenance-free landscaping, it is possible to keep landscape care at a manageable level by using indigenous and low-maintenance plants that can withstand dry conditions without requiring excessive watering.

Is the church site multivalent–able to bear multiple activities?

§ 208 § The outdoor paths that lead to the church building should be welcoming and free of barriers, especially to persons with disabilities. In the design of these paths, consideration should be given not only to groups and individuals coming to Sunday Eucharist but also to the arrival and departure of special groups such as the wedding party or the mourners who accompany the deceased’s body at a funeral.

These considerations for those with mobility issues, as well as liturgical gatherings involving funerals and weddings, are well-taken. We’re not just talking about the interior of the building.

§ 209 § In suburban and rural parishes, the building approach must ordinarily provide access for pedestrians as well as for those who arrive by automobile. The building site can be designed so that all who approach are helped to make the transition from everyday life to the celebration of the mysteries of faith. Parking lots and passenger drop-off areas can be convenient yet unobtrusive. Sensitive design of vehicular approaches, parking sites and walkways coupled with appropriate landscaping make it possible to accommodate the automobile without allowing it to dominate the site. Weather considerations will influence the arrangement and the choices made by the local parish.

Does the automobile dominate your parish’s site?

§ 210 § Paths provided for those approaching on foot, especially paths that lead to the principal gathering space outside the building, should receive special attention. The space at which these paths converge should be welcoming and hospitable, drawing together those who assemble for worship and providing for those who wish to linger in conversation with one another after liturgical services. Pavement patterns, borders, and configurations; shrines containing images in sculpture, mosaic, or other art media; as well as planters and outdoor benches help with the passage from the mundane to the sacred action of worship.

How much outdoor art does your parish possess? And is such art invitational to reflection and meditation? Five quick paragraphs, but these guidelines contain much wisdom that, here and there, is overlooked.

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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