Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Baptist Church, Lethbridge, Alberta

The sanctuary
A meeting in the adjacent hall
Over the Victoria Day weekend, we were able to attend a missions conference in Lethbridge, Alberta. This was the first visit to this city, and I found it a beautiful place.

The 3-day conference took place mostly in a church building that was likely built in the mid 20th century, and I fell in love with the restrained, humble, but nonetheless powerful ways in which it (I believe) portrayed the gospel narrative... likely missed by most who attended, but it sent my heart racing.

Some symbolic elements I noticed include:

The drawn curtains flanking the altar, not only lending a sense of theatricality as we witness the cross, but suggesting the parted temple veil (Matthew 27:50,51), and reminding us of the new covenant that allows us to approach God's throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16)...

The 2 crosses flanking the central Cross, suggested by the decorative brickwork forming the mullion that divides two vertical windows... giving us a glimpse of Golgotha. Other lintels are not treated this way, so the intention of creating the 2 flanking crosses must be quite deliberate (Luke 23:32-43). These crosses where the 2 criminals were executed seem "of this world" (they are rendered in brick, "rooted" in our realm), while the central cross hangs weightlessly in a spiritual realm, bathed in light (it is treated in thinner and more intricate woodwork, finely crafted, as are the vertical latticework screens that suggest the fellowship of the Holy Spirit descending from above, and our praises rising to the heavens. In fact the verticals continue up into the ceiling and its pattern literally become lights above the sanctuary...). It is a resurrected and ascended Jesus that is depicted, and our songs of praise as a community in Christ belongs to that realm of holiness.

The aisles actually form 6 niches on each side, and together (perhaps) suggest the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles, the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem...  allowing multiple interpretations and theological significance as it relates to the worshiping community of Christ (these niches are located flanking the pews). Whatever the interpretation, it takes the current Church and places it within a Biblical timeline and spiritual trajectory that includes the patriarchs of the Old Testament, the witnesses of the New Covenant, and leads towards the visions depicted in Revelations.

Overall, there is a restraint and simplicity in expression and in materials, and the subdued imagery and interior form suggests Christ's humble birth, his ministry, and his life.

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