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The Gate of Heaven

How Church Buildings Speak of God

This booklet would be hugely useful …
for any Church community proposing
a reordering or undertaking a major redevelopment.

Andrew Mottram

“The Gate of Heaven book struck many chords and I found myself in strong agreement, as well as intrigued because it gives words to what I can only describe as my hunches and feelings about stuff. The book has done the reflective work for me! I have found what is written hugely encouraging – it has put clothes on my model, in a language has made sense of much of what I have been doing.

“I think this booklet would be hugely useful in both theological education for trainee clergy and ministers plus any Church community proposing a reordering or undertaking a major redevelopment. I think the philosophical stuff is hugely useful. The book will also interest those involved already e.g. people who serve on DACs, members of EASA and staff at English Heritage.”

Andrew Mottram was Priest in Charge at All Saints Hereford 1991 – 2006, and is now Heritage Buildings & Community Development Officer at the Diocese of Worcester.

Supporting Material for each of the Chapters…

The text of the book refers to a number of buildings, but the format of the book did not allow for the inclusion of these in the printed version. Instead, this supporting visual material has been placed here for ease of access, so if you are unfamiliar with the buildings referred to, this is the place to come and see what they look like. Browse through the chapter pages, but it is best to do so with the book in hand. In time this space will also allow for the inclusion of other buildings and references that build on and extend the argument.

I always welcome comments on the book, the way the information is presented here, and indeed on any suggested additions.

Chapter 11 Introduction

In one sense our buildings are incidental to the life of the Church, and yet in another they are central to it. Unavoidably, all buildings speak to those who pass by and through them; the key question is what message do they give out, and is that message consistent with our theology? See images

2 Place

Why do we need church buildings at all? If one of the main functions of the Church is to take the word of God out into the world, then buildings often seem to be an obstruction to this calling, more a millstone than a springboard. See more on Chapter 2 here

3 Time

Most of the church buildings passed down to us in the UK are of at least moderate historic interest and are listed. It follows that if we are to apply our theology to our buildings we must engage with their history. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 3 here

4 Language

In the church building projects we undertake, should we use the conventional symbols we associate with ‘church’ – the pointed Gothic arch for example? This is a question of the use of symbolism, and whether traditional symbols are helpful. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 4 here

5 The In-Between

The use we make of our church buildings speaks volumes about how we understand the relation between secular and sacred, and we need to consider this in the context of the broader culture to which we belong. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 5 here

6 Community

Victorian wealth and ambition allowed for the wholesale remaking of the churches of England. In the name of making our churches more ‘sacred’, community uses were emptied out of them, even though they remain ‘community property’. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 6 here

7 Theatre

Any place of gathering is inherently theatrical; churches all the more so since they are places dedicated to the retelling of a story and where liturgy, however informal or unstructured, is nonetheless ‘performed’. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 7 here

8 Conclusion

So what, if anything, can the Church through its physical presence contribute to contemporary culture? Our churches are preaching all the time, but their message rarely matches our theology. See the buildings referred to in Chapter 8 here


Reviews and Responses…

‘An important, brief reflection on the contribution of the church building to the mission of the church within a community, and the role of the church building within that community. Including a plethora of case studies. (With many more, and much further detail on the accompanying website.) This is the single most relevant & readable apology for the contemporary importance of church buildings available – focusing on their usefulness & potential. Essential reading for all rural church councils & leaders.’ SIGNPOSTS KEY Resources for Rural Mission & Ministry


Aurasma Trailer…

Aurasma is a type of Augmented Reality software – a means of accessing video and other content when you are in a particular place, or when you see a particular graphic, such as an advert for a film. We are interested in the possibilities for using this to tell the heritage and community stories of historic churches.

The following trailer was a trial produced for use with Aurasma. If you have navigated here on an iPad2, iPhone4 or Android device then you can view the ‘aura’ by following these instructions:
1) Click this link.
2) If you don’t have Aurasma installed, the link will take you to the iOS App Store or Android Market; install the app then come back and click the link again.
3) The link will launch Aurasma, and share my Aura with you (which may take a while depending on your network speed).
4) As soon as the sharing is complete, point your device at the image on the front cover of the book (or the image of the cover at the top of this page).

If all of that sounds too much like hard work, you can watch the YouTube version below.