After a meeting today at the University of the South in Sewanee, I took a few minutes to walk into the magnificent All Saints Chapel on campus and enjoy the beauty of that sacred space. It may seem odd that I enjoy such beautiful architecture. I am a pretty practical Baptist who knows that God is present everywhere, but there are several reasons that being in such a building is a blessing to my soul.
First of all, a place of worship like All Saints is a testimony to the faith of men and women who loved God enough to do their best to honor God in constructing the edifice. The chapel itself (like all great places of worship) took years to complete, surely testing the patience and faith of many supporters. The stone walls and stained glass windows are a material testimony to their commitment.
Another reason standing in such a place blesses me is the stillness of the building in the midst of a busy, bustling campus. It reminds me of the presence of God with us even in the busy-ness of life.
Third, when I was in seminary I developed an interest in church architecture as an expression of theology. A building like All Saints embodies a number of aspects of Christian theology, including the celebration of the sacraments and the importance of public worship. Theology can be manifested not only in people and actions but in buildings as well.
Could the money have been used elsewhere to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give water to the thirsty? Maybe. But how many people have been inspired by such a building to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give water to the thirsty? Only God knows.