Alcuin Club

The Alcuin Club

Promoting the Study of Liturgy

The Alcuin Club

Promoting the Study of Liturgy

Shaping the Assembly: How our buildings form us in worship

A new book edited by Thomas O’Loughlin, published by Messenger Publications, 2023.

Space is all around us – and we constantly refer to it. ‘He is taking my space!’ – said with annoyance. ‘This place is homely!’ or ‘This room is very impersonal!’ – said as appreciations of situations. ‘We need more room!’ or ‘We need to de-clutter!’ – said as aspirations for a better future. ‘I was lost in the vastness of the hall!’ or ‘I felt locked in and had to go outside![ – said as our immediate reactions to new spaces. One does not have to be a student of Immanuel Kant to know, experientially, that space is a primary category without our lives.

We also know that how space is arranged affects us: we want ‘round table talks’ and we do not want to be put in the back row! Churchill captured the importance of built space in a couplet: We shape our buildings, then our buildings shape us. And in every society buildings have been used to project power and authority, to regulate society, and to project an image of how that group sees itself. Space ca also be conducive to relaxation, can help us focus, and give us a sense of welcome and security. To be indifferent to space, and to the spaces in which we live, is to be indifferent to part of our humanity.

Strangely, we often do not think about this aspect of space when it comes to liturgy – yet every religion (and every Christian denomination) has used buildings as part of their worship: from Newgrange and Stonehenge to classical temples to churches build of steel, concrete and glass. And it was this concern of the Second Vatican Council that led to the changes in the arrangements in Roman Catholic church buildings in the 1960s and 70s – and it set in motion a trend that is being followed in other liturgical churches. Equally, the auditorium style spaces of other churches may both reflect and contribute to their understanding of worship, if not also their ecclesiology. But this religious use of space is little appreciated or understood. Even work which addressed it directly, such as the important studies by Peter Hammond in the early 1960s, is often seen as relevant to only to architects rather than pastor and worship leaders.

This book brings together nineteen Christians – liturgists, pastors, architects, artists – from several churches and from around the world who all try to answer the question of how space affects us in worship.

The topics covered include the role of light in a religious building, the need for space to appreciate dance as part of worship, the varying needs of spaces for different liturgies, how space can be a primary vehicle of worship in dance, accounts of how communities have become creative with space, and questions about how the liturgical renewal should continue today taking a deeper interest in worship’s ‘built environment.’

The Contributors

John F. Baldovin sj is Professor of Historical and Liturgical Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He writes in the fields of liturgical history and sacramental/liturgical theology.

Paul F. Bradshaw is emeritus professor of liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. He is the author or editor of more than 40 books and 150 articles.

Eleanor Campion ocso is a member of the Cistercian community, St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, Co. Waterford. She currently serves at the Generalate of the Order in Rome.

Judith Courtney is a mother, grandmother, long-time leader of Church choirs, participant on parish liturgy committees and immediate past Coordinator of the Auckland Diocesan Liturgy Centre.

Margaret Daly-Denton has taught and published in the fields of liturgy, church music and biblical studies. She has recently retired from teaching New Testament at Trinity College Dublin.

Anne Dixon is a founding partner of Green Tea Architects – a practice with a preferential option for sustainable architecture. She has an MA in Pastoral Theology from Heythrop College,University of London and seeks to combine these two disciplines in her work.

Tom Elich studied in Paris, taught liturgy at Brisbane College of Theology and the Australian Catholic University, and was national secretary for liturgy for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference during the 1990s. He was parish priest at Bulimba, Brisbane, for fourteen years, and has been director of Liturgy Brisbane since 1989.

Richard Giles was formerly Dean of Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral and has written on transformative worship and the design of liturgical space.

Joseph Grayland is a parish priest in New Zealand. He has written on liturgical theology and culture.

George Guiver cr is a member of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, and has written on liturgy and on monastic life.

Laura Hellsten is a post-doctoral researcher at the Polin Institute of Theological research at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. She is currently co-leading the research project Praxis of Social Imaginaries: Cosmologies, Othering and Liminality which studies both transdisciplinary research and the relationship between descriptions of dance and racialisation in medieval travelling accounts.

Richard Hurley (1932-2011) was an Irish architect who continued the tradition of those twentieth-century pioneers who combined their architectural work with theological reflection. He was associated in one capacity or another with over 120 church design projects in Ireland, Britain, Kenya and Australia.

Christopher Irvine is an Honorary Teaching Fellow of St Augustine’s College of Theology, and teaches for the Mirfield Liturgical Institute, College of the Resurrection (UK). He has written on the interface of art and liturgical theology, and is currently engaged in questions regarding creation and liturgy.’

Peter Murphy is a diocesan priest of Auckland, New Zealand. He was parish priest of Papakura, South Auckland for eleven years and more recently Spiritual Formator at the national seminary. He is now retired.

Bridget Nichols lectures in Anglicanism and Liturgy at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. She has particular interests in Anglican liturgical books and in the language of worship.

Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology in the University of Nottingham. He has written on the history and theology of worship; and currently teaches for the Mirfield Liturgical Institute.

James G. Sabak ofm is the Director of Worship for the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. He has written on the history and theological significance of keeping vigil in the liturgical life of the Church.

Richard S. Vosko is an internationally known liturgical designer and consultant for places of worship and has received many prestigious awards for his work. A Catholic priest, and a frequent author on religion, art and architecture.

Thomas R. Whelan is a Spiritan missionary and has taught liturgical and sacramental theology for over 30 years in West Africa and Ireland, and has guest lectured throughout Europe and in the USA. Over the last few decades, he has been involved in many design projects, small and large.