church

Posted by Ellen

Before this building was a church, it apparently was a tavern, the oldest structure in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. After it was a church, it was converted into something else, some kind of housing.

At the building next door is a sign that reads: "We don't know anything about the church."

Posted by ted

(This is a guest post by Ted, the second in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas.)

When I was a little boy growing up in the Bible Belt my mother told me something I will never forget. "There is no god" she said. "But that is a secret. You must remember not to tell anyone else. They will get very mad at you if you do."

There are many types of atheists; some are as intolerant of other ideas as the people I had to keep my atheist secret from. I have even heard atheists say there would be no war or oppression if there were no religion. Given the history of atheists like Stalin and Mao I find this belief a bit, well, faith based. Point being, I am a devout atheist, but not an evangelical or fundamentalist one. My mother doesn't raise intolerant atheists.

The preceding paragraphs were a bit of a circuitous path to lead up to the following short sentence: I don't mind going to church.

While in Texas, my host Tia, whom you met in yesterday's Good Morning, invited me to attend her church. Tia is on a "prayer team" and people lined up to pray with them. I snuck some glances at the people praying with Tia and her team. There were hugs and there were tears, a lot of emotions packed in to the few short minutes each person had with a member of the prayer team. I could tell those prayers help a lot of people get through the week.

Friends have taken me to many houses of worship all over the country. Some favorites were a black upper class church in downtown Washington, DC (I liked the women's hats) and a white working class church in rural Alabama (I liked the banjos). I have seen many churches, but never one like Tia's. The sheer size was mind boggling. The band had at least twenty instruments and the choir was the largest I have ever seen. There were thousands of people dancing and singing and praying and rejoicing.

Pictured up top is your correspondent and the church, before all the seats were filled with worshippers.

It is true what they say, things are bigger in Texas.

Not everything is bigger in Texas though. Little girls attending church are still little girls attending church. There is, however, one difference between little girls attending church in Texas and little girls attending church elsewhere. Cowgirl boots.

Cowgirl boots on girls at church in Texas
Posted by Ellen

Before the earthquake, Christchurch had two cathedrals: the Gothic-style Anglican Christ Church Cathedral on the city's central square and the Italianate Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament nearby. Both were ruined in the quake.

In the aftermath of the quake, both the Anglican and the Catholic establishments became notably secretive about their plans for rebuilding and/or repair. The Anglicans were sued over insurance payouts and municipal maintenance funds. The Catholics spirited away all the decorative elements and artwork from their cathedral and hid everything at a still-undisclosed location.

Both cathedrals sit in ruins today, not yet demolished, propped up by flying buttresses made of steel I-beams and stacks of shipping containers filled with concrete.

Meanwhile, the Anglicans have built a new cathedral, allegedly for temporary use, on the site of a nearby church that was also destroyed in the earthquake. The new cathedral, with its cardboard-tube roof beams, was designed pro bono by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has achieved worldwide acclaim for his post-disaster structures, many of which are built from inexpensive and readily available materials, including paper, cardboard, plastic crates, and shipping containers.

The new Cardboard Cathedral opened last August. It can hold 700 people for church services and also serves as public meeting space.

Posted by Ellen

The machine that's demolishing Mt. Olive AME Church in the neighborhood is something you can rent in New Jersey. The jaws at the business end of the thing are heavy-duty grapples; you rent a regular excavating machine on caterpillar treads, remove its digging bucket, and pin on the grapple. The two-tined jaw opens and closes against the stationary three-tined jaw, which is reinforced, as seen here, with a rod called, appropriately enough, a stiff arm.

The cultural and economic forces that are demolishing Mt. Olive AME Church and a whole host of other churches in the neighborhood are something else again. These church buildings, many of them built from stone like this one, have sat here for a hundred years or so, sometimes changing denominations as the nearby population changed. The latest wave of immigrants to the neighborhood doesn't seem very churched at all, and so the old buildings get put on the market. Developers snatch them up and tear them down for a chance to build several new houses at once, in a part of the city that's already densely built. New houses--row houses--sell readily here to people who want to walk to work and/or to stores and restaurants. The new residents evidently are not interested in walking to church.

Soon, the excavator and its grapple will be loaded on a truck to go back to the heavy equipment lot in New Jersey, and we'll see five three-story row houses rise up on this lot, with squared-off bay windows and ten-year tax exemptions.

Posted by Ellen

Note to wedding planners: When choosing a date and venue, do take into account the possibility that the city's annual Naked Bicycle Ride will roll past your event just as guests are leaving the ceremony.

Actually, when this wedding let out late Sunday afternoon, the wedding party did have just enough time to hustle into the limo and peel away before hundreds of naked bikers swarmed the street in front of the church. The young man shown here who was dressed to join the bike ride was a few minutes early; he was waiting in Rittenhouse Square for his fellow riders to reach this part of the route.

By the time the main body of naked bikers showed up, the limo was gone, and the wedding guests in their finery were standing around in front of the church with cameras and cellphones trained on the dressed-down action in the street.

The two young women on bicycles near the left side of the picture were friends of the young man's who met up with him here by accident; like the wedding guests, they were not aware that the annual naked ride was about to descend on Rittenhouse Square. By the time the riders arrived, the women had made up their minds; they pulled off their shirts, stuffed them in their backpacks, and joined the parade.