Serbia

News? Religious communities build new sanctuaries, and repair old ones, for lots of reasons

News? Religious communities build new sanctuaries, and repair old ones, for lots of reasons

There were a lot of different subjects swirling around during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast, so I don’t know exactly where to start. (Click here to tune that in or head over to iTunes.)

On one level, host Todd Wilken and I talked about church buildings and sacred architecture. You know, the whole idea that church architecture is theology expressed in (List A) stone, timber, brick, stucco, copper, iron and glass.

Ah, but is the theology different if the materials being used are (List B) sheetrock, galvanized steel, plastic, concrete, rubber and plywood?

What if you built a Byzantine, Orthodox sanctuary out of the materials in List B and accepted the American construction-industry norms that a building will last about 40-50 years? Contrast that with a church built with List A materials, using many techniques that have been around for centuries and are meant to produce churches that last 1,000 years or more.

These two churches would look very similar. The provocative issue raised by church designer and art historian Andrew Gould — of New World Byzantine Studios, in Charleston, S.C. — is whether one of these two churches displays a “sacred ethos” that will resonate with the teachings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, while the other may be both modern and more temporary.

Here’s another question along those same lines: Why did farmers, merchants and peasants in places like Greece, Russia, Serbia and Romania for many centuries insist on building churches that would last for generation after generation of believers? Also, why are the faithful in many modern, prosperous American communities tempted to build churches that may start to fall apart after a few decades?

Here’s the end of my “On Religion” column about Gould and his work, based on a lecture he gave at my own Orthodox home parish in Oak Ridge, Tenn. — which is poised to build a much-needed new sanctuary.

“If you build something that looks like a Byzantine church, but it isn’t really built like a Byzantine church, then it isn’t going to look and sound and function like a Byzantine church — generation after generation,” said Gould.

“The goal in most architecture today is to create the appearance of something, not the reality. ... When you build one of these churches, you want the real thing. You want reality. You want a church that’s going to last.”

Now, is this a very newsworthy subject?

Maybe not. But some of these issues can be spotted looming over big headlines some big stories in places like New York City.

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God, baseball and missionary work: Do people in Serbia really deny the Resurrection?

God, baseball and missionary work: Do people in Serbia really deny the Resurrection?

Every now and then, journalists have rather technical arguments about the meaning of terms such as "truth" and "accuracy."

For example, what if a reporter quotes a person who is involved a complicated, even emotional, debate and people who reject this person's perspective later call the reporter's editor and insist that this information was untrue and should not have been included in the printed story?

Reporters often respond by saying something like this: "I was covering a very bitter debate. I could not prove that what this expert said is accurate, but my quotes were accurate. It is accurate to state that he said this and his claims are part of the story. Want to hear my recording of the interview?"

Arguments are like that. There are times when people with quite a bit of education, training, skill and personal experience disagree with one another about basic facts.

This brings me to a story that ran recently in The Claremore Daily Progress in Oklahoma -- one that talks about God, baseball and mission work. Here's how it starts:

Spreading the love of baseball and the love of Christianity seems like a perfect fit for Claremore High School Athletic Director Brent Payne.
The longtime baseball coach who hung up his cleats after the 2015 baseball season, is once again joining a local missionary group and heading to Serbia to teach the word of God, and also how to turn a double play. ...
Serbia, a country sandwiched between Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, has a population of just over 7 million.
Baseball, as would be expected, is not the country’s national pastime.

No problem, so far. However, an Orthodox reader out in the wilds of Oklahoma (such people do exist) had a spew-your-drink-of-choice moment when he hit this statement in the original version of the story that appeared in print, and on the newspaper's website.

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