Site updates

I'm going through and cleaning up parts of the site, adding text where text is missing, moving links from the old Boyinthebands.com site and the like. The categories list is now a dropdown menu, and there's a search bar in the site panel (desktop view).

The obvious change is the header image; it was time for something new. This is the Jersey Universalist Church, Jersey, Ohio, not so far from Columbus. I found the image at Wikimedia Commons, and although it was committed to the public domain, I want to thank user Nyttend for taking and sharing it.

Closeup of door and signI first learned of the Jersey church back in the 1990s but it wasn't a member of the UUA but the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Here it is in the 1998 NACCC yearbook, under Pataskala, Ohio. Several Universalist churches became members of the NACCC instead of the UUA, but none with the word Universalist in their names remain today, Jersey included. But guessing by the sign there was some activity as late as 2010.  Perhaps only a burial, as there is a cemetery next door. I wonder if they're still going.

You can find it today on this Google map.

In praise of the pipe organs of Greenland

I don't travel as much as I like, or I think I'd like, so I let my mind wander instead. As a child, I occupied myself with atlases and encyclopedia. In college, I heard the Iron Curtain fall by shortwave and met strangers by Usenet. Since the early 1990s, I've trekked down the back alleys of the internet. Today, I remembered a site I once enjoyed about the pipe organs of Greenland. I could have picked something else as a window into Greenland; indeed, I also look at sales flyers. (Frozen pizza, anyone?) But with pipe organs, I not only get something of obvious ecclesiastic interest — I know nothing of organs but I do like to snoop around a church — but also a slice of what Greenlanders value in music, architecture and religion.

Pipe Organs of Greenland (randallharlow.net)

I've written about churches in Greenland before, but not for ten years or so.

The site has been nicely updated since I last looked it up. Be sure to click on the photos, which cycle you through the images for the town or village. The dramatic landscapes! Both the spare Nordic modernism of the larger towns, and the colorful historic churches. The lighting fixtures!

I think I prefer the more homespun choices. For example, I rather like what appear to be metal house numbers used in lieu of cards on hymnboards. (I've seen something like this before, at the now-demolished Third Church of Christ, Scientist, here in D.C.)

That little church in Nutaarmiut (2010 population, 36) is simple but endearing, and I might harbor wistful, romantic notions of the hamlet if it hadn't been the scene of a triple murder in 2012. (I think that was about the time I stopped looking at Greenlandic churches.) Which, I suppose, is the value of travel — in fact, or by armchair — namely, the appreciation of what is, and not you would imagine to be.

A former Universalist center in New York

While I was noodling through the 1939 records of the Universalist General Convention, I saw a description in the Directory (under New York) to the Prescott Neighborhood House, sponsored by the Church of the Divine Paternity, Manhattan, New York, now known by its parish name, Fourth Universalist.

I didn't know there was Universalist settlement work that late — and indeed, it wouldn't last much longer. But remarkably for Manhattan, the building is still there and this article gives the highlights of the mission, the building and the controversy over its closure.

 

 

What church is that in the header?

A friend asked if the church in the header was Universalist. Indeed it is, or was. That is Universalist Meeting House, Hingham, Massachusetts. The image, now in the public domain, was extracted and hosted a Flickr.

This is the original source, The History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts.

Phoebe Hanaford was one of its pastors. The church disbanded in 1929 -- so many disbanded in that decade -- and the building, which still stands, has been converted to a private house.  Its papers are in the Unitarian Universalist archive at Harvard-Andover Library.

If your church needs a banner…

Counter to the prevailing opinion, I'm not a fan of church banners that highlight social or political issues -- they seem to soak up the energy and capital that might be applied directly to the need -- but if you do put one up, make it big and out of reach.

BLM banner on Church of the PilgrimsIn my neighborhood, at the Church of the Pilgrims (Presbyterian), Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It just went up.

Thinking about church style

This is a first thought, because it will make my next blog post -- about communion ware -- make more sense.

When we think about what it means to be "churchy" we're often -- but not exclusively -- talking about tastes and norms set by "the Ecclesiologists," meaning that medieval-focused, Romantic movement that overwhelmed the Church of England in the nineteenth century. For them, there was one correct style appropriate for Christian churches -- in a word, Gothic -- whether that meant fully expressed in stonework, or vernacularized into the carpenter style. Think of pointed stained-glass windows. Why did this style cross the Atlantic and denominational lines? The prevailing taste, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and the perhaps nothing so pedestrian as who the church architects and suppiers were. (This isn't an original thought, and I've seen it in a few places, most recently in chapter two, "Capital Ideas: Building American Churches, 1750-1860." of James Hudnut-Beumler's In the Pursuit of the Almighty's Dollar.)

There are noteworthy examples of Gothic Unitarian and Universalist church buildings, but so as not to lose the point: the creation of a common vocabularly of taste that's hard to buck, save with variations, like the engrossed domestic style the Universalists seemed to favor, or the (later favored) colonial revival the Unitarians of Boston imposed on the Western churches who wanted financial support. And the less said about the post-war community centers hiding in their own private parksor forests -- the  newer UU norm -- the better.

This clip, from a 1922 issue of the Universalist Leader, shows that advertizers thought we might buy stained glass.
This clip, from a 1922 issue of the Universalist Leader, shows that advertizers thought we might buy stained glass.

Of course, those days may be declining: not a particular style or fashion, but the ability of churches to chose the shape of their buildings at all. I can all to easily imagine borrowed, rented or shared spaces being a part of the survival strategies of Unitarian Universalist (and other) churches in the all-too-soon future. Consider how many newer congregations meet in office parks or retail space.

Is short, design will have to be expressed in ways other than the building, and without the influence of an eccumenical community of tastemakers. It will be interesting what we come up with, and if we appeal to older and more humble models.

Gardiner, Maine church gets new (secular) life

I got an email from Doug Drown yesterday:

Several years ago I sent you a link informing you of the sad demise of the Gardiner, Maine Congregational Church (UCC), formerly the First Universalist Church --- one of the handful of congregations that elected to affiliate elsewhere rather than be part of the UUA merger.   This article, from [the May 2] Augusta Kennebec Journal, tells  of what is about to become of the lovely old meetinghouse.

I appreciate the news. I hate to see churches die, but since the conversion by a cider maker will preserve the attractive building, I can't complain.

Source: Hard cider company buys Gardiner church, hopes to sell cider by July - Central Maine

The architecture of Universalist National Memorial Church, in detail

I was Googling for a set of 1939 orders of service from the Universalist National Memorial Church -- where I was once minister and now, after a long break, am now a member -- and found Sixteenth Street Architecture,  a fine architectural survey of Washington, D.C. "avenue of churches" from just north of the White House to just south of Columbia Road, thus missing All Souls Unitarian, but capturing the recently-demolished brutalist Third Church of Christ, Scientist. (I blogged about it a few years ago.)

 The section on UNMC is detailed and valuable, and includes photos of the construction.