Grandeur, simplicity, and bipolar spirituality

national cathedral

On Christmas Day Jean and I attended a service of lessons and carols at the National Cathedral.

stained glass

The setting sun ignited stained glass windows. The organ roared. Buttresses soared. Candles flickered. Grand proclamations of Scripture echoed through holy halls. We prayed, sang, and worshipped the Incarnate Creator in a setting of palpable transcendence.


But most of my corporate worship experiences happen in a small brick building where the windows are just windows. Other than a banner behind the pulpit and cross carvings on the pews, the place is functional. Babies squall. No organ here, just four-part singing. The only worship processional that happens is the stream of almost-latecomers and definite-latecomers. Yet I leave feeling as if I have worshipped–a comfortable, homecoming type of worship, but worship nonetheless. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free…”

Where is the intersection of art and simplicity? Does fine architecture demand the sacrifice of small things–the home things? At what point does simplicity subvert transcendence?

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2 Responses to Grandeur, simplicity, and bipolar spirituality

  1. caritabk says:

    My world history students and I have been discussing this topic for some chapters now. We watched a PBS Nova special on tall cathedrals of the middle ages–then looked at how the Anabaptists’ view of the Bible and its community interpretation influenced the way we build our churches. I think I’ll show them your blog, if that’s okay.

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