Building Symbolism

September 17, 2009

The Wall Street Journal recently had a good piece about the problem of church buildings not being handicap accessible. What makes the piece particularly interesting is that it not only considers the physical problem of not being able to get to worship but also subtly considers what this communicates. Here is a part from the piece that mentions a Jewish congregation's building:

At Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka, Minn., no sanctuary steps lead to the pulpit; congregants approach it using a long ramp, symbolizing that all people come to the Torah equally.
There is something powerful in that symbolism. Such an architectural change is not merely about access but also communicates something important about the congregation's theology. It may not often be considered, but architecture communicates. Thus, churches should make sure their architecture communicates messages that match their beliefs. Christianity Today had a very good article a couple of months ago that demonstrated this principle.

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