Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More on the Akron Plan

You might remember this post, in which I discussed churches built on the Akron plan. For more on it, there's some good diagrams of Akron-style churches on this page, as well as some more discussion of the plan itself.

Millinerd, wonderful person that he is, took it upon himself to follow my prior request, and took some pictures over the holidays of the Central Westside United Church of Canada in Owen Sound, Ontario. He's posted a Flickr set of them, which shows the beauty of the building. My favorite is this one (as it relates to the Akron plan), showing the sliding doors that can be lowered to separate the classrooms from the sanctuary.

Many thanks to millinerd for these great photos!


millinerd said...

There's some Jersey Akron as well. We should go on a tour someday using the afore-linked site.

Lance said...

I do love njchurchscape. And, I'd love to do a tour of a lot of churches around NJ and PA! There's some really interesting exteriors, at least. I hope to be hitting some for some dissertation research, anyway (assuming I can get access to some archives). I'll let you know as I do.

millinerd said...

Well Lance, I fear I am fast approaching stalker-status on your blog due to frequent comments, but it might be interesting to also consider the downside of the Akron plan as well.

This book (great title!) frequently mentions the Akron plan, and seems to imply that the abandonment of classic architectural forms for theatrical models allowed the church to be shaped by a consumer culture.

A provocative suggestion indeed - your thoughts?

Lance said...

I've seen that book, but haven't gotten to read it yet. I will say that even some architectural manuals from 1914-1916 that I've looked at called for an end to Akron plan churches.

A major downside is that having Sunday School classes next to the worship space is pretty noisy, as you might imagine. But, that assumes that Sunday School occurs during the worship service—something that happened then, and that continues to happen. I am not fond of that practice, since when children are old enough to come to church, they have no idea what goes on there except for the times in which the children's choir sang, or (for pedobaptist churches) a brother or sister was baptized.

I'll have to look at that book and see what I think. I would agree that, especially, now, churches are shaped by theatrical models. But, in American Protestantism, was there a time in which "classical architectural forms" were used? The simplicity of early Baptist meetinghouses (and others) seems to lean towards much the same style as we continue to see now, just in a different context.

In some sense, a low sacramentality would leave behind many classical forms, since things like an ambulatory and side chapels would be unnecessary. And, a more egalitarian celebration of the Eucharist would change the shape of the altar (if it was even still called that), and thereby the whole building. But, that latter doesn't apply to all, for certain.

The Akron style, among others, focuses on the centrality of the word to Protestant practice. I'm sure you heard the Al Mohler program (I think it was that day) in which he said that the main point of the worship service was to proclaim the word. I found it really interesting that worshiping God was not the idea, but that proclaiming God's word was. That's why many churches use no specific liturgy—what's the point if you're just trying to get to the sermon.

Perhaps that is a holdover from the theater, though. Are we so used to having things told to us, that the Gospel presented through music, through art, through the liturgy itself is opaque? Can we only accept the Gospel as it is spoken? Or, in our post-modern time, only as it is spoken and presented on a Powerpoint presentation?

millinerd said...

Interesting thoughts Lance - a worthy post in its own right.