In my lifetime, I have seen churches shift into shopping malls, steel buildings, and warehouse districts. The new churches in town have become large edifices with some charm but with a primary objective of utility. I have watched beautiful grand pianos and majestic pipe organs be replaced with economical electric keyboards. I have toured some beautiful churches on my trips abroad. I have even taken time to tour some old churches in my town that are historical reminders of days gone by. I have paused in wonder at stain glassed windows, and craned my neck to look at the massive stone aches supporting the ceiling. I have marveled at the intricate carvings and been intimidated by the clicking sound of my shoes on the hard floors echoing in the emptiness of the rafters but overall I have been engulfed in the wonder and glory of love for the Creator that motives such marvels. I have opened my mouth in song without reservation and listened to the sound waves as they bounce off the hollow emptiness of the domes surrounding and encircling me with joy…. leaving me with goose bumps. Beauty permeates every cell of my being in some of these impressive shrines. I do wonder what kind of chutzpah it takes for a congregation to catch a vision of beauty knowing it will not be completed in their lifetime. Thus, leaving an object of beauty, a legacy for their grandchildren and their great grandchildren, these innovators dreamt dreams that were too large for one generation. They opted for beauty over utility.
The American author Harriet Beecher Stow wrote, “In all ranks of life the human heart yearns for the beautiful; and the beautiful things that God makes are his gift to all alike.” Although these churches do not compare to the beauty in nature, they stand as testimony that the yearning for beauty touches you and me alike. I yearn to see beauty, extravagant, impractical, totally outrageous beauty and it seems a place of worship would be a perfect place for many flamboyant expressions of beauty that could be enjoyed by all. What if we allowed ourselves to dream based on our love for our Creator instead of whether we could accomplish that dream in our lifetime? What if we valued beauty over utility and we quit listening to the critics? What if church was not a business requiring utility but an expression of extravagant love for our Creator?