Thursday, December 4, 2008

Inflatable Churches

Another item that caught my eye in last week's Catholic Telegraph was an item about the Catholic diocese of Essen, Germany, buying an inflatable church, apparently in an effort to appeal to young people.

A German diocese plans to use inflatable churches to bring the Gospel to young people. "The aim is to do something eye-catching which could eventually be extended to all our towns," said Winfried Dolhausen, spokesman for the Essen Diocese. "These churches will be on a continual journey, meeting the young where they are rather than waiting for them to come to us."

It's probably no surprise that I don't like the idea.

A church should be a consecrated space, set aside for celebrating sacraments and prayer. The church should be a sign that points to a transcendent reality. It should elevate the soul toward God and provide a sense of permanence. An inflatable structure does none of these things.

If I were a youth, and somebody tried to evangelize to me with a blow-up church that looks like a holy moon-bounce, I might be curious to see what the thing looks like inside, but I woudn't be likely to take seriously anything said by those erecting the thing. It's more likely to become fodder for mocking jokes. A simple tent, I think, would be better.

Having something that looks like a caricature of a church should not be confused with evangelization. Evangelizing youth requires people willing to witness and talk to young people, without being overtly judgemental (which is not the same thing as accepting immoral behavior).

More than anything, I think that we should be willing to take our faith seriously enough not to invite mockery, which a cartoon church is certain to do.

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