Do Visual Arts Shape Spiritual Life?
of the author
Mary Woolnoth, London
Building Anglican Liturgy
Giving Form to Anglican Liturgy
in the City Churches of London
John W. Dixon, Jr.
Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel
The City Churches of Sir Christopher Wren by Paul
Jeffrey (London and Rio Grande, The Hambeldon Press, 1996)
Hawksmoor's London Churches by Pierre de la Ruffinière
du Prey, (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2000)
The publication of these two books, not quite simultaneously,
gives Anglicans the opportunity to become familiar with the work of the
tradition's two greatest architects, Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas
Hawksmoor. Second, it can be an opportunity to consider the more basic
problem of what an Episcopal Church should look like, what it should do.
The broader question puts the accomplishments of Wren and Hawksmoor in
A "church" is not a building but the people gathered for
worship. Strictly speaking it does not matter what kind of building the
people meet in. The early church made do for a long time with rooms in
private homes. (One of the merits of du Prey's book is the attention he
gives to the respectful concern of the church officials with the forms
of the early church.) A church might meet in someone's living room or
in a barn with simple furnishings and that would suffice.
The practicalities of any organization make a permanent
setting necessary to enact the various functions of the community. As
soon as that happens, the church faces serious decisions about its own
structure. The elements of the church's activities are few and simple
but their placement is vital.
If the function of a church building is to provide for the
common worship of the church as the gathered community, it is essential
to know what that worship is made of, else the building will accomplish
something different. From the beginning the worship has consisted of two
fundamental elements, the Word and the Sacraments. Each of these divides
into parts. The Word includes the scriptures and the sermon, plus the
public prayers and songs. The sacraments relevant to church buildings
are the Eucharist and baptism.