By Michael Beasley Towards a Church Architecture, edited by Peter Hammond (Architectural Press, lt0s.).
,111-1ERE have been hundreds of I churches built in Britain over the last fifteen years, and this rate of building continues. Yet the state of church design here is profoundly unsatisfactory, and the full impact on it of the liturgical movement and the crisis of pastoralsocial needs is hardly noticeable.
If in answer to the question "What is a church?" a local educational authority were to point to a Board School of the 1880's, an architect could complain of being grossly misled. And, if he were to accept this answer as his guiding basis. decking it out with some stylistic decoration whether old or new, he would turn out the average British church of today.
On the continent. especially in Germany. for more than thirty years many architects have sought a briefing such as they would demand for a school, a factory or a housing estate; the Church there has tried to give him this briefing. and some of the results are described and illustrated in this book.
In 1959 the New • Churches Research Group was founded. in which Peter Hammond took a leading part; the essays which form this volume are the product of
that Group. contributed by five Anglicans, four Catholics and a Presbyterian. These do not constitute a statement, the editor explains, but the basis for discussion. and, as such. it is probably the most vitally important work on its subject published in Britain since the Cambridge Campden Society more than a century ago.
It is understandable, while remaining acutely disturbing. that the least clear of these essays are by an architect and a designer who were the creators of a recent and important contribution in liturgical design -St. Paul's Bow Common.
The whole book, however. amply rewards and, indeed. must be given the fullest study by all, if our new churches are not to continue to be symbolic anachronisms to the young and those outside the Church. nor to inhibit the full enactment of, participation in and understanding of the liturgy by all
the sole raison flare of a church.
But this will require the thorough and enlightened theological direction by the clergy. humility and gravity of purpose from the architect and the patience and encouragement of the parish priest and congregation to achieve which there could be no better beginning than this book.