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It’s a beautiful church, no question about it. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 and dedicated in 1961, the building is a departure from traditional orthodox architecture, yet retains the historic elements. The basic design is that of a greek cross inscribed by a circle.
I am a big fan of FLW, and of clean and simple space. The high of ugly and gaudy to me would be Rococo, so there was a lot that appealed to me in the church. I will say, though, that at a pretty basic level it doesn’t seem like the juxtaposition of the “Wright” elements with the iconography just doesn’t work. The contrast is too stark. If you’re going to have the richness of orthodox iconography, it seems very odd to me not to really embrace it. There were lots of elements that I would consider, uh, cute, but not really all that devotional. Like the ichthus pews, for example:
While I’m on that topic, WHAT IS UP WITH THE CARPET AND BLUE PADDED PEWS? Bizarre.
Our tour guide was a very nice lady who grew up in the parish. Her father was on the committee to build the church, so she had a very good grasp of the space. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of confessional Lutherans. We’re not protestant, but we certainly aren’t orthodox, but the kids have a remarkable grasp of liturgical space and of the Scriptures. She told us the kids knew more that most of her sunday school students. At least we are ecumenical about it….
I did find that some of the stereotypes were held up. My Orthodox friends tell me that the Greeks are generally standoffish and not very friendly toward the rest of Orthodoxy. One of the kids asked about other Orthodox churches, and she did talk about how there’s only one Church, and that she can go commune at the Serbian, Bulgarian, Russian or Antiochene churches. Although the languages may be different, there is only one faith. Amen.
Then the odd thing happened. I asked her about the OCA (Orthodox Church of America), and whether there were any OCA churches in the area. She not only ignored my question, but then proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the tour. She would only talk with my colleague, Rev. Sean Smallwood from Lamb of God. I don’t know enough of the relationship between the OCA and Greek Church to know what’s behind it, but I found it peculiar.
She also gave a rather interesting take on the difference between the orthodox and the west. She pointed out that while they have crosses, there aren’t many and they aren’t really defining for them. Orthodoxy is about the resurrection of the dead and not about satisfaction for sin. The cross is about satisfaction for sin, and while that is an element of Orthodox doctrine, it is not the article on which the church stands or falls.
I’m slowly coming to the realization that I just don’t know enough to really speak intelligently about this matter. As a Western Christian, I’m all about sin and forgiveness. While I (think I) understand the restoration of our fallen nature, thesis, repristination, and some of the other themes in Orthodox doctrine and practice, I’m just not clear on how it concretely plays out in their piety. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m pretty steeped in the Western doctrine of original sin and justification, but that our view especially of the Sacraments also makes theosis especially attractive.
I still don’t approve of padded pews and carpet in church, even if it as FLW building….