Last spring we spent a few days in Barcelona. A highlight of our trip was a visit to Sagreda Familia, a landmark church designed by local architect Antonio Gaudi. (The name is Catalan for “Holy Family.”) The Catholic basilica, planned to be the tallest religious building in Europe, is already the second most visited site in Spain. It is such a landmark that the recent terrorists in Barcelona had, sadly, planned on blowing it up.
If you’re used to traditional Gothic churches, Sagreda Familia is, frankly, weird. As William said, it is as if a seminary student and an architecture student had drunk way too much caffeine and stayed up way too late talking.
The design is symbolic to within an inch of its life. Every element, from the floor plan to the tops of the towers, has a meaning. There will be eighteen towers, representing Jesus, Mary, the four evangelists, and the twelve apostles. The outer walls, made of intricately carved stone, look like a beachside sand castle and are covered by sculpture and scriptural texts. Some elements look like plants or molten wax. Other pieces look like bones, giving the church a skeletal appearance. The pillars inside look like trees and the ceiling like a forest canopy. Everywhere you look, inside and out, something surprises you.
Sagreda Familia is perhaps best known, however, for being unfinished. Construction began in 1882, and Gaudi’s unique vision quickly shaped the plans for the project. He sketched out the floor plan and decorative scheme, and completed the northeast facade, the Nativity Facade. By the time he died in 1926, the church was only a quarter done. Construction has been interrupted by war, fires, and arguments over the design. The builders are working hard now, however; the cranes are visible from all over town. Plans call for completion of the church by 2032, 150 years after it began and more than a century after Gaudi’s death. The incomplete church has become such a landmark that some in Barcelona have proposed never finishing it.
While Gaudi and his successors packed the building with symbols, it has developed more symbolism over the last century and more. It represents the power of a unique vision, of aspiration despite obstacles, and of the commitment to build something huge, beautiful, and, frankly, impractical. Even in a rapidly secularizing and diversifying Europe, Sagreda Familia draws, awes, and silences an endless parade of visitors and pilgrims.
Our own little building, blessedly, didn’t take 150 years to build—although as Katherine Stevens and her indefatigable Building and Grounds committee will tell you, it’s never quite done. (Thank them! Join them!) It rarely draws visitors and pilgrims from around the world. Its design is more Congregationalist simplicity than over-caffeinated Art Nouveau. And we don’t get many pilgrims. But it still represents vision, aspiration, and commitment. For that, thanks be to God.
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Survey Results—At last week’s midyear “non meeting” and lunch, we shared the results of our recent congregational survey. Click here for a summary of the results. If you’d like to see full results, email email@example.com.
Sunday School, 9/3—This is our last Sunday of summer break. Children are welcome in worship and the Nursery is open for childcare. The following Sunday, 9/10, we’ll host a Welcome Back Service for all ages, and on Sunday, 9/17, Sunday School Class will resume.
Hurricane Harvey Help, 9/3—During this Sunday’s Offertory we’ll collect cash (in envelopes) or checks made out to Cleveland Park Congregational UCC with “Hurricane Harvey” in the memo line. This will be sent to the UCC Emergency Fund where 100% of our donations will go to domestic disaster relief and rehabilitation programming. You can also donate online here.
Choir Practice Resumes, 9/3 and 9/6—The Adult Choir rehearses Sunday mornings at 9:30 am and Wednesday evenings at 7:30 pm. To get involved, email our Music Director, Dorothy Mora:firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday School Teacher Training, 9/9—All Sunday School volunteers are asked to attend this fun and informative training from 9:30-11:30 am (brunch included). RSVP: Mirabelle, email@example.com.
Welcome Back Sunday & Harvest Lunch, 9/10—We’ll begin the fall with a worship service for all ages. Afterward, the Deacons will host a Harvest Lunch with sandwich makings, salads and desserts. All are welcome!
Unity Walk, 9/10—After the Harvest Lunch, Pastor Ellen will accompany those who wish to participate in the annual interfaith walk down Massachusetts Ave. This family friendly event begins at 1:30 pm at Washington Hebrew Congregation, 3935 Macomb St., NW. We encourage you and yours to meet our friends and neighbors from a variety of faith traditions. To register: www.ifcmw.org/unity-walk/
Poetry Hour, 9/17—Join us from 4-5 pm in the church parlor and bring one or two poems on any theme to read (with 8 copies to share). Invite a friend! Questions? Le Rowell at firstname.lastname@example.org.