An Anatomy of Megachurches



In An Anatomy of Megachurches, Witold Rybczynski looks at and discusses large, contemporary American churches - and let’s really call those places churches and not “places of worship”, because there are so many more “places of worship”, which, officially, are not churches at all.

The subject is a bit deeper than it might at first seem to be. We can’t but feel overawed when standing in front of, say, Cologne’s cathedral - the sheer size is quite overwhelming. It appears appropriate to look for what is beyond the sheer difference in architecture and what unites - and divides - those places. It seems to me that it’s quite irrelevant what the churches look like from the outside or how much money they cost. The aforementioned Cologne cathedral wasn’t quite cheap, either.

It’s probably also quite irrelevant whether or not modern churches have video projections or not. I can’t help but think that medieval Catholics would have happily used video projections if the technology had existed. Just go to any large, old European church and look at the detail in the paintings shown there - they’re as impressive as they could get, and by “impressive” I mean “leaving quite the impression”. In Munich, there’s a little church filled with skulls and skeletons, cast in stone. You wouldn’t really need to add any video projection there for your Catholic experience.

Maybe the lack of comfort that some people experience when looking at those “megachurches” on some level can be compared with Martin Luther’s lack of comfort with the Catholic church. I think that in the end those megachurches tell us less about ourselves than we think (if you want to focus on padded seats you might just be missing the point!) and more about about what kind of worship we aim for.