Sunday, November 29, 2009

Church Facades, In Pictures

The above photo appears to be a Werth's department store. But in fact, it is a church. (There is a small, white sign that indicates it is the First Baptist Church of Hammond - in Indiana.)

Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara captured church facades - like the one above - in a recently published essay ("How the Other Half Worships") and exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Many of the photos on display featured run-down churches in city settings. But I took my time through the exhibit to read the captions. If you read carefully enough, you'd find fun nuggets of humor, like this quote about a Kentucky - Fried - Chicken - turned - Hispanic - Pentecostal - church.

Church pastor Hector Rodriguez said, "When it was selling fried chicken, it went bankrupt. Now that we praise God, it is more popular."

Some observations about the collection of photos:
  • Many churches boarded up doors and windows when not occupied.
  • The names of churches took on phrases and sentences, such as the America Come Back to God Evangelistic Church. But Publishers Weekly praised photographer Vergara (literally) on his storytelling method, saying: "Rather than holding forth about [the churches'] unusual names, he lets the clergy explain the origins and import of these names."
  • Painted murals of Jesus are colorful and common
  • At Traveler's Rest Missionary Baptist (on Racine Ave. in Chicago) hangs a neon sign about the altar: "Jesus Never Fails." How about that for a blunt message?
The photographer is a Chilean-born photo essayist, writer and documentarian who lives in New York City.

The church I've been attending has its own unique story.

Ebenezer's Coffeehouse used to be a crack house just east of Union Station. It was renovated several years back and is now a full-service coffee shop (free Wi-Fi, too!). Church offices are upstairs, and weekend services are held in the basement, which has an edgy-urban warehouse look to it.

How's that for an interesting facade?


Josie said...

Meg! The first one is in my hometown! Great post!

Leigh said...

I got really excited when I saw eb's. I was like that's my church. I love it!!!

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