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When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195179729
ISBN-10: 0195179722
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Kilde's careful and thorough research in published and unpublished congregational denomnational , and architectural records successfully engages architectural history, religious studies, and social and cultural history, and this book will be beneficial to scholars in many disciplines."--The Journal of Religion


"Jeanne Halgren Kilde's impressive new book is a Rosetta stone for an undervalued genre of American ecclesiastical architecture. Kilde's work adds complexity to our understanding of both American religious architecture and American religious history."--Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians


"This is a very significant book for at least three disciplines: architectural history, church history, and liturgical studies....Kilde shows how changing concepts about the function of worship produced major changes in the design of church buildings, a process which has continued to the present. In so doing, she explains much of the ecclesiastical landscape of America."--James F. White, Drew University


"This original and impressive book demonstrates how relevant the history of religious architecture can be for the study of American history. Jeanne Kilde's careful attention to the lived religion of worship spaces as well as to the cultural politics of space greatly advances the understanding of church architecture in the nineteenth century."--David Morgan, Valparaiso University


"Jeanne Kilde's study of auditorium churches is a major contribution to the growing literature on 'reading' religious architecture as an important tool for discerning the significance of the material culture of religion in understanding broader themes in the religious, social, and cultural history of the United States."--Peter W. Williams, Miami University


"Wonderfully insightful By the book's end, Kilde has enlightened us not only about architecture and interior design, but also about liturgical practice, music, theology, class, gender, power, technology, and the rise of consumer culture. It is hard to convey, in a short review, just how rich this book is." -- Journal of Presbyterian History


"Reading architectural space is a highly rewarding enterprise, and one stands in awe of the author's ability to explore nonwritten texts so creatively. By skillfully chronicling the movement from one church type to another and linking this transformation to the social and cultural concerns of American evangelism, this book not only enriches our understanding of American religious history but also brings what was peripheral to center stage, illuminating old questions and opening up new ones."--Worship


"Kilde's work will be of interest to religion scholars examining the relationship between faith and culture, historians who seek to understand the evolution of evangelical Christianity in the nineteenth century, architecture scholars desiring to understand the genesis of auditorium/theater-type spaces in relation to Christian worship, and all who seek to understand the presence and impulses of evangelical Christians today who construct ever more sophisticated auditorium spaces for their ministries."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion


"When Church Became Theatre expands, synthesizes, and enriches the narrative of both American religious history and American architectural history, which will enlighten professional and amateur scholars alike."-- Religious Studies Review


About the Author


Jeanne Halgren Kilde holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College, and Co-director of Macalester's Lilly Project for Work, Ethics, and Vocation.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195179722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195179729
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,649,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on March 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The exterior and interior designs of church structures testify not only to economic standing and technological advances; they also witness to broader cultural changes and to the religious and social motivations of the builders. The disclosure of these motivations-and the meanings and values associated with the buildings themselves-is the subject of Kilde's study of nineteenth-century evangelical architecture. Of particular interest to her are the changing politics of space: statements of power, authority, and relationship (between God, clergy, and laity-and with "the world") made in stone, wood, and glass; the correlation of "sacred" and "secular" designs; and the reciprocal influences between the style or function of worship and the disposition of the space. Although Kilde's study progresses from the Federalist style at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to the Gothic revival at roughly mid century, and to the neomedieval auditorium at century's end, throughout she keeps an eye on the theater-style church and the (internal and external) dynamics that brought its increasing popularity. Particularly interesting was her treatment of buildings associated with revivalist Charles Grandison Finney as a case study on the emergence of the theater design from experiments in the early decades of the century. Helpful as well was her discussion of the ongoing evolution of the theater style as it adjusted to meet the needs of revivalism and of the family-oriented congregation.
Because of her multidisciplinary approach, Kilde's well-researched contribution will be valuable to scholars of architectural history, cultural studies, church history, and liturgical studies.
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A thoughtful, well written, and very informative examination of the development of the "auditorium church" in the late nineteenth century, along with some discussion of its decline and eventual resurgence in popularity in the twentieth century. Although the book is an excellent treatment of the subject, it does have, in my estimation, several weaknesses:
(1.) For a book that addresses an architectural subject, it doesn't have nearly enough illustrations - although because the author is a social and religious historian, instead of an architectural historian, this is understandable.
(2.) Because the book is concerned more with the origins of the auditorium church than with its spread, it focuses mostly on major churches in large Northern and Midwestern cities, and doesn't pay much attention to the spread of the auditorium church plan to smaller communities and the construction of auditorium churches in brick or wood instead of stone. The widespread adoption of the auditorium church in the South is scarcely alluded to at all.
(3.) In part because of that focus on Northern cities, the last chapter, addressing the decline of the popularity of the auditorium church, completely misses the entire phenomenon of the use of the auditorium plan in countless Neoclassical-style churches in the 1910s and 20s. The book asserts that the "neomedieval" auditorium churches were directly supplanted in popularity by churches exhibiting a more formal and liturgically-directed Neo-Gothic style as early as the 1910s. In the South, however, the adoption of Neo-Gothic architecture for evangelical churches did not become widespread until the late 1920s and early 1930s, after the Neoclassical style had been popular for two decades.
(4.
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I sometimes despair when I encounter various individuals who either believe the Contemporary Christianity is a magnificent new revelation from God or is the bane from the pit of darkness. Rarely is anyone remotely aware of the long history behind Contemporary Christianity even though the nineteenth-century architectural legacy is still very much with us. Dr. Kilde has done a great service (pardon the pun) for both American architectural and theological historians with this book. She traces the evolution of the American church through the nineteenth century in it architectural manifestations. Her scholarship is impeccable and her examples superlative. The text is amply illustrated with historic photographs, both of exteriors but primarily of interiors. I highly recommend this book.
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