Beauty’s Role in Churches

Today’s post is a little different but it’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been trying to find ways to talk more about my faith and I thought the Easter season would be a great time to do that! I was struggling to find ways to fit this into my blog but then I remembered that this blog is about my interests and all the pieces that make up this young woman and hopefully it connects to other women (or men!) with similar interests.

I’ve always noticed beautiful churches. I’d stare at them as we passed by, turning my head to look at them for as long as I could. There was something fascinating about them even to a young girl who didn’t go to church except for Girl Scout events or with a friend sometimes.

Drawn to Beauty

Then I was assigned in one of my journalism classes my freshman year to go to a church different than the religion I’d grown up around as part of an exercise on acceptance, research, and understanding. I chose a Catholic church because for some reason I thought it was super different from the Methodist teachings I’d grown up with. And it is, but it is definitely Christian and probably didn’t meet the purpose of the assignment now that I look back. I went with my boyfriend (now husband) and his best friend who is Catholic. His friend, whose family ended up helping me and Daniel with all the many questions we had as we tried to find our faith, decided to take us to a beautiful church in the area. I was fascinated the whole time by the detail and beauty of the church and the music.

Then when I transferred to Texas State I started really visiting different churches in San Marcos as I tried to find out what I felt gave the most honest and true teaching of God and Jesus (and don’t forget the Holy Spirit!). The one I was drawn to most was close to the town square and was a landmark that my dad and I used as we drove around during my first visit there. It was a beautiful Methodist church that was so classic. White church with a steeple; doesn’t get any more picture perfect than that in my head.

I went quite a few times while also sometimes going to different Catholic churches in the area. The Methodist church is the one I went to most consistently though. I loved being around the classic beauty it brought with it and the Catholic center on campus was very much a brown box.

Now I want to say here that I think just going to church is amazing and beautiful, especially for those who take the Eucharist. There’s a simple and profound beauty just in that. But being surrounded by beauty when doing that, or having it in your community, adds so much.

The Reason for Beauty

I think there is a reason for beauty and I think there’s value in it. It has drawn me into it my whole life, specifically in churches and nature. It’s a feeling of peaceful appreciation of my surroundings that I don’t quite get in any other form of beautiful things. I have not studied this and I’m sure there are studies out there, but I feel like there is a part of art that connects to the human soul and brings joy. I think being surrounded by beauty on a regular basis leads to a higher quality of life and that is why time in beautiful churches and nature lead to people being happier and less anxious. It’s the reason my husband gets the itch to go camping and the reason we have sought out beautiful churches.

At first I felt guilty about only wanting to go to pretty churches. It felt shallow and like that’s not what it was for. But then I started hearing more discussion through Catholic Answers and other podcasts such as The Catholic Feminist and Blessed is She about the importance of beauty and it made so much sense besides just wanting to be in a place that made me happier.

Beauty is a way to communicate the awesomeness and glory of God and the teachings that surround that to every person. Whether you can understand what’s being said, can read or write, or aren’t sure if you believe in what’s going on, beauty can be appreciated. It attracts people to tour cathedrals, it attracts people to go to church and once they’re in a beautiful church it allows them to be filled up with that peace and happiness that comes from beauty and draw closer to God. People are in a space where they can learn more about Him. They’re also in space that reflects the beauty of each person during a time where people are told that only one form of beauty is right.

Beauty is attractive, and beautiful churches attract all sorts of people and provide opportunities galore. It allows people who have no other connection to God a way to connect.

It’s not a “trap”. It’s just an invitation and also an expression of gratitude for the gifts given to us. Look at the beautiful building designed by intelligent minds, admire the paintings drawn by skilled hands or listen to the music played and sung by gifted people. Smell the incense of the prayers or taste the bread and drink the wine or feel the water of your baptism. These are all forms of tremendous beauty that allow us to be completely surrounded and filled by experiences you are hard pressed to get anywhere else or in any other way.

Churches Today

There is a trend of ugly churches in America. Nondenominational churches often look like a warehouse, gym, or venue. Baptist, Methodist or Catholic churches are filled with beige or horrible green or maroon carpet (you know the kind). But traditional, timeless beauty is hard to find and should be brought back.

The church Daniel and I are going to only had one piece of beauty in it when it opened, a beautifully painted dome. Through community desire and donations they have filled it to the brim with beautiful colors, artwork, stained glass, instruments and all manner of other statues and features. It doesn’t have to happen right away but we don’t have to settle for bland churches that don’t fill us up.

I hope that you have a beautiful church in your life and hopefully a beautiful park, too. I hope next time you see a beautiful church you’ll go in. Maybe you’ll be inspired by a way to make your church more beautiful. Above all I hope that you take time to soak in the beauty.

Here’s to beauty. May we see more of it around us.

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