At present, we are exploring the liturgical principles which underpin our work in the Church Renewal Process. Having considered active participation, we now consider the sixth principle, namely:
The general plan of the church
Over the centuries, many Catholic churches have been built. Very rarely is one church building identical to another, and the layout, design and style of the buildings has changed immensely over the period of almost two thousand years. So what, then, are the basic requirements for the general plan of a church?
Firstly, the liturgical documents since Vatican II focus on the church being arranged so that “it in some way conveys the image of the gathered assembly” (Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar, Ch 2, No 3; General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 294) It is a reminder to us once again that it is the whole Church, each of us gathered together that becomes one body in Christ and celebrates the liturgy. There needs to be, therefore, spaces for each of the various ministries to be carried out. Once again, the arrangement of the church should encourage full, conscious and active participation of everyone in the liturgy.
Considering the matter of participation further, the most recent General Instruction of the Roman Missal encourages the provision of seating for the assembly, as well as ensuring good lines of sight to focal points such as the ambo, altar and presidential chair. It encourages us to provide adequate sound amplification, and space to allow us to move as necessary during the Mass – both to sit, stand and kneel as required, but also to move in procession to communion (GIRM, 311).
Also, while the church is a liturgical space, we are also challenged to think about how our place of worship also provides the usual comforts that people come to expect when they gather in public buildings. This could include facilities such as toilets and parking, but also extend to other areas such as suitable climate control (GIRM, 293).
Finally, our Guiding Concepts Committee met last weekend to draw together the material and feedback gained from parishioners during our meeting with Fr Stephen Hackett MSC in June. A draft of the guiding concepts has been prepared and is being reviewed by the committee before it is presented to all parishioners in due course.