One ugly church bites the dust

Christian Science church under wrecking ball

Christian Science D.C. church under wrecking ball – finally

The following comes from a Feb. 26 story by Nicholas Hahn III on RealClearReligion.

Christian Scientists have won their long, twilight struggle against brutalism — so says a wrecking ball at the corner of 16th and I streets in Washington, D.C.

For what seemed like an eternity, members of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist fought with architecture historians and city bureaucrats over the right to tear down their own church. Churchgoers never liked their 1971 classic brutalist structure — an architectural style that is well, brutal — and have even suggested it has something to do with their dwindling numbers.

“We think it says, ‘Stay away.’ Something goes on in here that they don’t want to get outside, which is exactly wrong for all Christianity,” a longtime church member, Darrow Kirkpatrick, told NPR. “Brutalism is not our religious expression,” he said.

The Ugliest Churches in the World” offers a hearty “Amen!” While my compilation of ugly churches doesn’t rank ugly, the Third Church of Christ, Scientist might just be the ugliest of them all. Take a look at “Even More Ugly Churches,” too, and judge for yourself.

When the case went before the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board in 2007, the battle became less about bricks and mortar and more about religious freedom. “Church property is often, as is the case here, an expression of a church’s theology and religious mission,” Roger Severino, a lawyer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the Washington Post‘s Marc Fisher. What’s more, the building was in bad shape and needed costly repairs; money the congregation didn’t have –and didn’t want — to pony up.

But the Board wasn’t convinced and voted unanimously to designate the building an official landmark. This meant that the District now dictated where Christian Scientists worshipped and how they spent their money. Churches, the Post‘s Fisher wrote, are supposed to be protected from this kind of “extreme preservation mania.”

It turns out, the Capital’s planning director Harriet Tregoning isn’t a preservation maniac. In 2009, Tregoning overturned the Board’s decision, calling the building’s design an “experiment” that “failed badly.” Tregoning agreed with the Christian Scientists that they shouldn’t go bankrupt repairing a church they want to wreck anyway. Even though Tregoning refused to engage in the religious freedom concerns, this Christian Scientist victory might give hope to Catholics presently fighting the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

Earlier this month, the District finally issued a permit to raze the brutally ugly church and put up an office buildng (with worship space) in its place. Here’s to hoping the rest of “The Ugliest Churches in the World” are next.

To read the original story, click here.

 

 

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  1. The headline had me going, then the subtitle. How about all the glass ones and anything built from 1965-2000?

  2. mike magee says:

    Bob, does that mean the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, opened in 2002, is OK?

  3. Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, in Los Angeles, also known as the Taj Mahoney, which Cardinal Mahoney built as monument to himself, should be demolished. It is ugly and doesn’t look like a church, and it certainly doesn’t inspire religious sentiments or Catholic ideals.

    • Clinton R. says:

      Exactly, it is the paradigm of church design consistent with the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II and is perfect for the New Mass. If only Duncan Stroik were allowed to have designed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, we would have a fitting place to give God His due worship. Both the edifice and the liturgy should reflect God’s majesty.

      • More UGLIES are St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco and whatever it is called in Oakland….

        • Anonymous says:

          Ugly to all those of us born in the Gothic age. I suppose anyone born in the modern era- like after 1940 – might actually like the soaring structures that stand out in the skyline and point our eyes towards heaven. But they would be wrong. Change is bad, very very bad.

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