Unique Churches

When asked about the Church, the first thing that often comes to people's minds is what sits on the corner down the street ... a building. We know though that the Church is not a building. It's not a place. It is people. Church is not something we are called to go to, but rather what we are called to be. It is the community of people that have given their lives to following the head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

That being said, I recently came across a fascinating series on Ten Of The World's Most Unique Churches, church buildings that is. What follows are ten remarkable feats of architecture. A true testament to the creativity of man.

May we as God's Church be as attractive and unique as the buildings that follow.

Harajuku: Japanese Futuristic Church

This futuristic protestant church is located in Tokyo and it was first unveiled by the design firm of Ciel Rouge Creation in 2005. The ceiling is specially made to reverberate natural sound for 2 seconds to provide a unique listening experience for worshipers and tourists.

Saint Basil's Cathedral: The Red Square 's Colorful Church

(photo: Lst1984)

The St. Basil's Cathedral is located on the Red Square in Moscow , Russia . A Russian Orthodox church, the Cathedral sports a series of colorful bulbous domes that taper to a point, aptly named onion domes, that are part of Moscow's Kremlin skyline.

The cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan. In 1588 Tsar Fedor Ivanovich had a chapel added on the eastern side above the grave of Basil Fool for Christ, a Russian Orthodox saint after whom the cathedral was popularly named.

Hallgrímskirkja: Iceland 's Most Amazing Church

(photo: Stuck in Customs)

The Hallgrímskirkja (literally, the church of Hallgrímur ) is a Lutheran parish church located in Reykjavík , Iceland . At 74.5 metres (244 ft), it is the fourth tallest architectural structure in Iceland . The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), author of the Passion Hymns. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937; it took 38 years to build it.

Temppeliaukio Kirkko: The Rock Church

The Temppeliaukio Kirkko ( Rock Church ) is a thrilling work of modern architecture in Helsinki. Completed in 1952, it is built entirely underground and has a ceiling made of copper wire. It was designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and completed in 1969. They chose a rocky outcrop rising about 40 feet above street level, and blasted out the walls from the inside. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki and frequently full of visitors.

Cathedral of Brasília: The Modern Church of architect Oscar Niemeyer

The Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida in the capital of Brazil is an expression of the architect Oscar Niemeyer. This concrete-framed hyperboloid structure, seems with its glass roof to be reaching up, open, to heaven. On 31 May 1970, the Cathedral's structure was finished, and only the 70 m diameter of the circular area were visible. Niemeyer's project of Cathedral of Brasília is based in the hyperboloid of revolution which sections are asymmetric. The hyperboloid structure itself is a result of 16 identical assembled concrete columns. These columns, having hyperbolic section and weighing 90 t, represent two hands moving upwards to heaven. The Cathedral was dedicated on 31 May 1970.

Borgund Church: Best Preserved Stave Church

The Borgund Stave Church in Lærdal is the best preserved of Norway 's 28 extant stave churches. This wooden church, probably built in the end of the 12th century, has not changed structure or had a major reconstruction since the date it was built. The church is also featured as a Wonder for the Viking civilization in the video game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.

Las Lajas Cathedral: A Gothic Church Worthy of a Fairy Tale

(photo: Jungle_Boy)

The Las Lajas Cathedral is located in southern Colombia and built in 1916 inside the canyon of the Guaitara River . According to the legend, this was the place where an Indian woman named María Mueses de Quiñones was carrying her deaf-mute daughter Rosa on her back near Las Lajas ("The Rocks"). Weary of the climb, the María sat down on a rock when Rosa spoke (for the first time) about an apparition in a cave.

Later on, a mysterious painting of the Virgin Mary carrying a baby was discovered on the wall of the cave. Supposedly, studies of the painting showed no proof of paint or pigments on the rock - instead, when a core sample was taken, it was found that the colors were impregnated in the rock itself to a depth of several feet. Whether true or not, the legend spurred the building of this amazing church.

St. Joseph Church: Known for its Thirteen Gold Domed Roof

The St. Joseph The Betrothed is an Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Chicago . Built in 1956, it is most known for its ultra-modern thirteen gold domed roof symbolizing the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ as the largest center dome. The interior of the church is completely adorned with Byzantine style icons (frescoes). Unfortunately the iconographer was deported back to his homeland before he was able to write the names of all the saints as prescribed by iconographic traditions.

Ružica Church: Where Chandeliers are made of Bullet Shells

Located over the Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade, Serbia, the Ružica Church is a small chapel decorated with... with trench art! Its chandeliers are entirely made of spent bullet casing, swords, and cannon parts.

The space the church now occupies was used by the Turks as gunpowder storage for over 100 years and it had to be largely rebuilt in 1920 after WWI. Though damaged by bombings there was an upshot to the terrible carnage of The Great War. While fighting alongside England and the US , Serbian soldiers on the Thessaloniki front took the time to put together these amazing chandeliers. It is one of the world's finest examples of trench art.

Chapel of St-Gildas: Built into the base of a bare rocky cliff

The Chapel of St-Gildas sits upon the bank of the Canal du Blavet in Brittany, France. Built like a stone barn into the base of a bare rocky cliff, this was once a holy place of the Druids. Gildas appears to have travelled widely throughout the Celtic world of Corwall, Wales , Ireland and Scotland . He arrived in Brittany in about AD 540 and is said to have preached Christianity to the people from a rough pulpit, now contained within the chapel.

How Much Do You Hate People?

How's that for a title to get your attention? Now that I have it, check out this video and be challenged by a man who not only does not love God, but does not even believe in him.

Listen as Penn of Penn & Teller shares his thoughts on how anyone who believes in God, heaven, and hell, should be sharing (proselytizing) their faith with the world around them. Very thought provoking. Very challenging!

What do you think?

Life of Passion

I have been thinking a lot about my life lately. Perhaps because it's that time of year that people are making resolutions to make some kind of change in their life. I am not one to normally make New Year's Resolutions. Not because I am uninterested in change, or out of fear I will break that which I resolve to change. I think it is more a function of wanting to be flexible enough to make change when change is needed. Nonetheless, I have been thinking about my life, and more precisely the things I am passionate about.

Last Friday I returned from a great two week vacation. It was a welcomed time of catching my breath and pulling away from the busy routine of life. The second half of our time was spent in one of our favorite locations, San Clemente. San Clemente is a great beach town about an hour north of San Diego. We spent most of our time on the beach, soaking in as much sun as we possibly could. San Clemente is all about the beach and all about surfing. Surfing is big there.

As one who grew up in Southern California, I am drawn to the the whole beach/surf scene. I love it! I love the laid back approach to life. I love the sun, the sand, the surf, and what I call the "flip flop lifestyle." As I observed the surfers this last week, I quickly picked up on something that characterizes most all of them - passion. If there was ever a culture of people committed to what they love, it is them. I have always considered myself a fair weather surfer. If I am going to head out into the water, it's going to need to be a warm sunny day with nice water temps. For those committed to surfing, that is far from their approach.

For those that surf, being in the water is of top priority. It comes before just about anything else in life. As I watched them paddle out early each morning, it was obvious. As much as I love the beach and all that comes with it, it is not my passion. I want my life to be characterized as one passionate for the things that are close to the heart of God. As I watched the surfers, I was forced to ask myself, do I have that amount of passion in my life.

As I continued in my reflection, the following words of Christ came to mind...

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31

I want that to be the passion of my life. I want to live a life characterized by my love of God, and love for the world around me; the kind of love that takes everything I got. I can't help but think what life would be like if that was truly the passion of God's people.

My ultimate goal in ministry is to see those God has entrusted to me, loving Him with everything they've got. For when we do that, the second greatest command comes naturally. It's my prayer this year that that is what is seen in me - a life of passion.

How about you? Where do your passions lie? A good question for us to continually keep in front of us.