Saturday, June 26, 2010

#84 The Cafegymatorium

White Christians are masters of ingenuity. Since small church properties typically confine capital expansion plans, and stewardship limits capital expenditures, white Christians get creative with their worship facilities.

With several needs crammed into a one-size-fits-all facility, white Christians have concocted the Cafegymatorium. The platypus of church spaces, the Cafegymatorium is half cafeteria, half gymnasium, and half alternative worship space. Instead of doing one thing well, the Cafegymatorium does three things poorly.

The "Gymnasium" is too small for an actual game of basketball and the carpeted floors (and/or walls) virtually guarantee floor burn during overly competitive athletic contests. Why carpeted walls, you might wonder? Because white Christian adults know that the youth pastor allows the youth group to get so hyper in this space that they "bounce off the walls." Putting up some carpet allows for the covenant kids to literally accomplish this feat.

Any luncheon within a 500 foot radius of the church is contractually obligated to take place in the cafegymatorium. This would seem to make sense, but the combination of carpeted floors and volunteer labor ensures improper food clean-up. The leftover food particles of a hundred potlucks are deeply embedded into the carpet's tight weave.

The cafegymatorium's stage allows for experimentation with alternative worship experiences. Any new or non-traditional format of worship is always relegated to trials in the cafegymatorium. Cermonies in this space typically rock relatively hard, despite the noise cancellation that carpet should provide. More echo-chamber than sanctuary, worship in the cafegymatorium generates decibel levels approaching that of a jet engine.

Despite all of its short-comings, the young and the young-at-heart revere the cafegymatorium as perhaps the best space on church property. High School boys will play various intensly contested sports within this space (all of them eventually digressing into dodgeball), and afterward rejoin the youth group worship service reaking anew with the sweat of the Spirit.


Jake Belder said...

"Instead of doing one thing well, the Cafegymatorium does three things poorly."

Gold. Evangelicalism's pragmatic church architecture (if it can even be called that—anyone can build a box and stuff some chairs in it) is a depressing legacy to be leaving to future generations. Of course, when you believe that everything physical is unimportant since we're all going to fly away one day anyway, it's hard to get excited about things like that.

Kimberly said...

I work for an architectural firm that designs churches, and I'd like to say the following in our defense:

1. These decisions are usually budget-driven. Churches have a hard time justifying spending $$ nowadays on beautiful buildings for fear they might be judged for being poor stewards of their resources("Lord, this perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor!")

2. Building fund money is typically not tax-deductible, so every church has a smaller budget than what they would like.

3. Architects lament the near-nationwide abandonment of the physical arts in the church and we do our best to give our clients a beautiful building within their budget, but at the end of the day, it is the church that makes the final decision on how their building looks.

4. We have had churches specifically request that their building resemble a mall/food court (complete with Coffee shop area, of course). I kid you not. Some churches actually want their church building to look like an entertainment/shopping mecca and as little like a "traditional" house of worship as possible. The whole reasoning behind this has to do with wanting to attract seekers and not "scare them away" with traditional church archetypes like steeples and sanctuaries (that's probably a whole blog topic in and of itself). Never mind that many people searching for a church are doing so because they don't find fulfillment in our consumerism culture, and that a church has a unique role in society, both spiritually and architecturally, that cannot be found in any other social organization.

OK, I'm done ranting, er, defending this now. ;)

Love the blog; keep up the excellent work!