October 23, 2016 – A View from the Rectory Window

 

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“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32)

As I write, there is a hole in the roof of the Church of the Resurrection.  I am hopeful that by the time this bulletin is sent to the publisher the hole will be topped by a steeple.

Perhaps this is a good time to consider the purpose and the value of the steeples on our parish churches.

Originally, the steeple was intended to make the church visible from any part of a town, clearly there for all to see and be reminded of the Church’s importance in their lives.  Steeples also housed bells that were used for a variety of functions, both secular and religious.  Bells let clergy members know when to perform certain ceremonies, when to fast and when to pray.  Townspeople were informed of services as well as potential dangers, such as an approaching army or a fire.  The height of the steeple essentially allowed the bells within it to transmit sound loudly and clearly to all parts of the town, ensuring effective communication.  The steeple also often acted as a lantern to light the town and the center of the church.

Of course, the main symbolic purpose of the steeple is related to the nature of a church itself as a symbol of the divine and place of worship for the faithful.  One thought is that the vertical lines of the steeple helped to visually enhance the lines of the church, directing the viewers’ eyes vertically to the heavens and to God and thus, help to keep us in a heavenly frame of mind coming into worship.  The steeple is meant to act like a hand, reaching into the sky to touch the heavens themselves.  As with many other        religious structures, the steeple is built high to remind   followers of how the religious order goes beyond the    everyday reality of the earth, and shares something with the transcendent.

In a history class in college I once heard that the tallest buildings in the community were what the community valued the most.  For centuries, in most cities, it was the church steeple that was tallest.  Today, in most cities, the tallest buildings are reserved for banks and businesses, reflecting what we value the most in these cities but it also reflects who has the most money.

May our steeples reflect the place of God in the lives of our parishioners and for all who pass our way.

Fr. Pete