Saturday, May 01, 2010

Something New in the Church

We can all think of ways in which new technology has become a fixture in modern churches. From video screens to light production to sound mixes, some in church leadership (including myself) can't imagine planning and executing a corporate worship gathering without the aid of some of these technological innovations.

The "advance" of any area will bring with it its share of critics.

With that thought in mind, I was humored recently while reading the end of the chapter entitled "The Cathedral" in Joseph and Frances Gies' Life in a Medieval City. Addressing the issue of new innovations available at the time of the 13th century, they write,

Thirteenth-century bishops are delighted with the technology that gives them their incomparable cathedrals. Interestingly enough, clerical opinion in the past was not always so favorable. St. Bernard wrote angrily to William, abbot of St Thierry, about the great Cluniac churches: "Why this excessive height, the enormous length, this unnecessary width, these sumptuous ornaments and curious paintings that draw the eyes and distract the attention from meditation? . . . We, the monks, who have forsaken ordinary life and who have renounced the riches and ostentation of the world . . . in whom do we hope to awake devotion with these ornaments? . . . One could spend a whole day gaping instead of mediating on God. What ineptitude, and what expense!"

How interesting that over 700 years later, the concerns and criticisms are the same, just the names and types of technologies have changed.