Design Planning Principles – I

The Triumph of the Cross Building Committee continues to reflect on “Built of Living Stones”, the U.S. Bishop’s document on planning the building of a church. There have been five general principles from that document upon which we have reflected:

  1. The church building must be designed in keeping with Church law and serve the needs of liturgy;
  2. The building should be “worthy of prayer” and “dignified with noble beauty and intrinsically excellent art”;
  3. The building should truly represent the people who will gather there;
  4. The building must foster participation in the liturgy rather than encouraging the passivity of the congregation;
  5. The building reflects the various roles of the participants (a place for the sanctuary, a place for the music ministry, a place for the congregation, etc).

One of the most significant changes in emphasis since Vatican II is number four above. Many older churches, despite other very attractive qualities, were designed like auditoriums. That is, there was a stage (sanctuary) up front with the audience (congregation) watching the divine drama unfold from a long, narrow hall. That sort of design does not encourage the full and active participation that Vatican II calls for.

Our goal is to erect a church building that fulfills all five of the above principles. For some, this will involve a whole new way of thinking about how a new church should be designed.

– Fr. Tim McGuire

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