January 22, 2017
Why is it that St. Francis' church building does not have stained glasses windows? Are they not required, just like having red doors?
Church architecture is important because it is designed to focus the congregation's attention on theological messages. The message in each location is slightly different, even within traditions, and different traditions emphasize different theological concepts in their several worship spaces.
Baptist Churches throughout the United States tend to be humbler and simpler in their expressions than Roman Catholic Churches, Orthodox Churches, and Episcopal Churches built in the neo-Gothic styles, especially in second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Our Baptist friends tend to have clear glass windows, and tend to be built in a Carpenter Gothic (wood framed neo-Gothic) or a Georgian red or painted brick exterior.
In the early Nineteenth Century the Episcopal Churches continued in colonial style, much like Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg or St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church in New York City. Those churches also have pew boxes, emphasize the pulpit over the communion table, have white painted walls, and plain glass windows. It was the back end of the "Enlightenment" and the architects were looking for a rational sense of religion with a great deal of light illuminating the experience of worship.
It was in the 1830's along with the development of the "Tractarian" or "Oxford" movement, which was an Anglican reclaiming of its catholic traditions, the vagaries of the industrial revolution and its assault on the senses, that neo-Gothic architecture with all its dark interiors and stained glassed windows became a prominent part of the American architectural landscapes.
St. Francis, which began as St. Francis in the Field, has an historical connection to the outdoors, beginning with their worship in the field of our current location. Later, while still worshipping in the "dog kennel" that occupied the field of the farm which we had acquired, a large window was insert into the altar end wall. Worshippers could like out to the field, woods, and any animal running by.
When the current structure was built the Vestry and the committee overseeing it agreed to emphasize our simplicity and place in the field. We wanted clear lines of sight to the canopy of trees outside the altar window, maintain uncolored windows, keep simple woods and uncluttered walls. Simplicity and nature are a big part of who this congregation is and why our building looks like it does.
The Rev. David Lucey