Do we shape our buildings or do they shape us?

Building up Bournemouth

Artist’s impression of the new building being constructed for Lansdowne Baptist Church

‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.’

So said Winston Churchill defending the adversarial nature of the House of Commons debating chamber. The same could be said of our church buildings. They are monuments to the era in which they were built and reflect its values.

Take the Victorian chapel which has been home to Lansdowne Baptist, Bournemouth, for 138 years. No street-level windows giving so much as a hint to passers by of what’s going on inside. It was a building originally designed to be open only for one day a week. A small vestibule makes a comfortable welcome challenging. It leads to aisles too narrow for pushchairs, wheelchairs and buggies. A three-sided balcony is reached by way of a winding staircase. At the end of the service there is limited chance of a meaningful meeting with anyone below, in the melée to exit.

There is a grand pulpit, of course. Forbiddingly high, far more than the six feet above proverbial contradiction. And, stretching out beneath the preacher’s gaze, row upon row of uncomfortable wooden pews, even with cushioned runners.

The whole edifice appears built to dissuade the worshipper from overstaying his or her welcome and makes a sense of community and corporate praise difficult.

Change on the way

But over the next two years dramatic changes are on the way… (read more)

Lansdowne Baptist Church

This article was first published in the February issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

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