Sunday, August 8, 2010

Churches of Buffalo

The churches of Buffalo are especially beautiful. Mostly I saw Roman Catholic, various Baptist denominations and one lone Pentecostal Temple. Some were run down, others were sparkling with love and care. Churches changes as the people and communities around them do. Buffalo has had the good sense to make several of the finest examples of older architecture heritage buildings protecting them for future generations.

In Medieval times the church, especially the cathedral, was the people's community hall as the castle was the King's. The sole King had his own 'space' whereas the church was an inversion of this, the priest, God's servant among the people, the servants of God. The edifice of worship was the "space" of the people's. The congregations could come alone and together into this 'space'. All who moved in the realm of the king's castle were clearly there at his permission. Yet the church in contrast was the 'space' open to the people and almost democratically early belonging to the people. Later the church would indeed be the 'space' that was the community hall, the place of dances, and bingos. It was the 'holy' space where people came to be alone with God or in fellowship with community. Here the King was a fellow servant.

The King's Castle was place where one went to be with the "strong man." He'd once been a self proclaimed God but already by medieval times his association was increasingly in doubt. Today the position of the priest and organized religion as a whole are facing similar doubt. More than ever people would call themselves "spiritual' but fewer call themselves 'religious'.

The old castles have become individual homes and tourist attractions. The churches remain a kind of home and definitely are becoming more of a tourist attraction. The 'space' remains in a sacred sense a place of people and God.

I like to walk where so many have come to pray. It's such a different experience, for instance, from walking where men have died in battle. That too is a place of prayer no doubt. The church though is a testimony to a higher ideal than the purely secular. I find peace in the 'sacred space' of the church regardless of denomination or for that matter even faith. There is a refinement of prayer in the experience of church as comparison to the crudest of prayers that might linger still on battlefields. When I am still I imagine I can hear the soft whispers of prayer that linger in the vicinity of church. Especially the petition of parents for their children and children for their aging parents. The best prayers in this 'sacred space' are for God's will and for the care of others.

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