What Changes a Building Into a Church?

The churches of Nova Scotia

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Almost every town has one, from the smallest village to the biggest metropolis.

They vary from little more than a lean-to shack all the way up the scale to a cathedral that took several lifetimes to build.

They are the place people choose for the celebrations of their lives: weddings, baptisms, holidays. And they are the places people are drawn to when they seek a refuge from the ravages of their lives.

A church.

The most famous young man in America once chose one as the place he wanted to wed the love of his life. Primitive, white-washed, wooden boards and nails, a space barely large enough for he and his bride and the minister to hold the nuptials on the island off the coast of Georgia.

A future queen, who eventually could not even keep her title as Her Royal Highness, was commanded to wed at a cathedral not of her choosing. The massive number of dignitaries to be invited to witness the historic union dictated a larger venue. But as the fates conspired against her and took the upper hand in the end, even her most celebrated marriage couldn't survive the splendor of its beginning.

Before Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of his empire, churches were not buildings. To early Christians “church" meant the act of assembling together for worship and fellowship. The first property owned by the Roman church were the catacombs – burial grounds not buildings.

A little historical research reveals the earliest building exclusively used for Christianity was at Dura Europos in Syria on the Euphrates River. It is interesting that this region is so often involved in the birth of the Christian religion. It is also believed by some to be the possible location of the Garden of Eden. This particular church’s existence was brief, a period of less than thirty years, but it gave the “church” a new meaning: a visible sign of permanence.

Early church builders wanted their work product to express their faith. This is why most churches include "a path" or center aisle that leads to an intersection at an altar, which represents the moment of salvation when God is revealed and an individual soul is redeemed. Early American churches followed the example of the British meeting house: simple in design, with high ceilings to let in plenty of natural light. Often both in the old and new worlds the church building became the center of the community providing more than a place to worship. They were used for education, civic initiatives, and meeting the physical needs of those in the vicinity.

I've been in churches that met in movie theaters, store fronts, community centers, and Quonset huts. When I was growing up, on Sunday nights in August our church would abandon the un-air conditioned building where we normally met and escape to a nearby campground and its open-air arbor. It was more than one hundred years old way back then, and it's been forty years since my last campground meeting. The campground wasn't a place to pitch tents and roast marshmellows. It was a place for week-long revival meetings. It was a place for dinner on the grounds, which is Southern-speak for having a picnic. It was a place for singing four part harmonies accompanied only by a tin-y sounding piano. Preachers hid God's Word in their hearts, proclaimed it with tongues of fire, and left Holy Ghost in the rafters. It was a place where you had church, not a place where you went to church.

In the Bible the "church" is referred to as a body of believers, the physical extention of Jesus here on earth. His hands. His feet. His outstretched arms to a world in need. Maybe that is why almost anywhere people live in close proximity to each other they feel the need to establish a church house in whatever form they can afford. Like that first one on the Euphrates River, churches are still a visible sign that people assemble together. Like the ones in the earliest settlements in the new world, they are still the center of most communities. And like the Bible defines it, the church still attempts to be outstretched arms to those in need.







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Comments 33 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a cool idea for a hub! I love the pictures and I do admit to a fascination with some of the old churches, the architecture...but more than that, I have always been in awe of the interiors. It seems as though you are definitely in the presence of God when you are inside of them.

Great job of writing my friend, but I would expect nothing less.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful hub. I really like churches and temples. Great Pictures.


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

Seems to me it would be the presence of God but what do I know...

The Frog


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

billybuc: Glad you enjoyed this one. I only used the Canadian churches because I just got back from a trip up there. You're right about feeling the presence of God in some of them. It's like you expect him to lift up a corner of the roof and say, "Hey!"

Ericdierker: Welcome to my hubs. Oh, pictures of temples would be awesome, actually so would mosques. Eye of the beholder, I guess.

Frog: Actually, I don't think you could be more right. Thanks for the read and the comments.


owhorspecial profile image

owhorspecial 4 years ago from Nigeria.

I love this hub Kathleen... i was smiling all through, it was really good.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

At first I just read your hub with an eye on the beauty and the human effort in bringing for something that for them means so much. Then the one fellow wrote in essence that the change from building to church was in the presence of God. And then I read your comment about the peek a boo from the roof. And it hit me that Churches are places where people ask for God to come. I just bet you, that God is peeking in on Kathleen, wherever she is. But these wonderful stories were about good people offering up a place where God might be all comfy.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Ingenious subject matter. The thought JFK and Carolines choice was magnificent and it emphasized the importance of what a Church signifies rather than the grandeur it involves.

Mine is a humble but wonderful small town Church. I have attended service in other houses of worship but nothing compares to "coming home" to the Church I grew up in.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

This is wonderful Kathleen. The pictures are great - Nova Scotia would obviously well suited to photography. But really what I like most of all is your balanced and lucid prose. Definitely Sharing. ~~Theresa


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

owhorspecial: Hello all the way to Nigeria. I think you are my first comment from that country. I've been to Kenya and Egypt. Nigeria is definitely on my wish list. Welcome and thanks.

Erikdierker: From your mouth (keypad) to God's ears. I just know he is looking in on you too. Thanks for the blessing.

phdast7: I'll show you more pictures of Nova Scotia than you ever wanted to see at our next breakfast! As always, thanks for your encouragement!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

beautiful hub, you have explained the true meaning of Church, Not many know of this!

Thank you for this, voted up and beautiful!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

livingsta: Welcome to my hubs. Thanks for taking the time to comment and vote. I'm not sure I knew these meanings myself until my research led me to them.


Pamlia Wall profile image

Pamlia Wall 4 years ago from Ararat North Carolina

You really researched this and I am very impressed. Not many today would be concerned with what a church is. Some people today only will attend a very large and impressive building to go to church. But I am glad you took the time to tell others what a church really is. Thank You


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Pamlia Wall: Thanks for your comments. This hub kind of came out of nowhere after a trip to see the Fall colors of Canada. But it ended up being about "church". My hubs do that a lot: start at one point and end up somewhere unexpected. Does that ever happen when you write?


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

So very well presented;well informed ,interesting and useful. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to many more.

Eddy.


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 4 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

Couldn't agree more- church is a group of people- not a building. Our church currently meets in the local pub before it opens and it is really special despite the fact that the staff are in there cleaning up- but they listen as they are cleaning ( they are not christians so this is a win win situation for us)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Eiddwen: Thanks for the comment and the fan mail. I appreciate your encouragement.

CASE1WORKER: I've worshipped in a lot of places, but a local pub takes the cake. I'm sure the workers are receiving a blessing for your services. Thanks for commenting.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

So I am following this hub with happy amazement and have decided that it is a church. We gather, we exchange pleasantries, we share and we express love to each other. And we even have so so archetecture. There is an old song that says to the effect: whenever two or more of us are gathered in His name, and there is Love. Kathleen I will drop by your church anytime you are giving a sermon!!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Ericdierker: Are you a writer or what? Your comment is better than the hub! Hope folks comment on your comment. Takes this work to a higher level - thanks.


mours sshields 3 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

Very interesting. The church is made up of people, not just a building.

Beautiful pictures! I still like looking at old country churches.

Marcia Ours


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

mours sshields: I agree about churches being made up of people. Old churches are works of art.

Sorry for the delayed response. My mother passed away this week at age 88, so I've been out of touch. This was a nice hub comment to get me back among the living. Now to get on with it -


Marcia Ours 3 years ago

So sorry about your mother!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you. I helps to know she's alive - just somewhere else. Sincerely, thank you.


dialogue profile image

dialogue 3 years ago

Excellent hub, it was well written


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

dialogue - Thanks so much. Do you have much experience with churches of a variety of types and sizes?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Great idea with some interesting history to go with it. I especially liked the explanation of the center isle. I think shiningirisheyes said it best, " importance of what a Church signifies rather than the grandeur it involves." Of course through the ages there were 'religious' men who tried to outdo others with the grandeur of 'their' church.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

tillsontitan: I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I took that trip to Canada just about this time last year. It was wonderful in general, but the variety of churches was moving. Several commenters made excellent points that would make a hub all by themselves.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

The Philippines have been hit with the most powerful storm the world has ever seen. Here's a prayer that the hands of Christ around the world will reach out to those in need once more and do what churches do best: help.


janshares profile image

janshares 2 years ago from Washington, DC

I love it, Kathleen! Thanks for inviting me over. You took an original angle in your presentation that emphasizes the history and purpose of the "church" and the importance of how people create the church community. The images are breath-taking. Voted up, beautiful, and interesting.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Glad you found it janshares. Great minds . . .


serenityjmiller profile image

serenityjmiller 18 months ago from Brookings, SD

Beautiful. I'm reminded of some recent hubbub about a certain celebrity couple who renovated a church building to be their new mansion. Apparently, there was quite the local uproar over this outrage, but I could only think, "The church is already gone... all that's left is a building."


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 18 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

So true. My favorite restaurant in Atlanta used to be one in a converted Catholic Church. It was beautiful, but now it is only used for special events. You are really tunneling through a niche of my hubs! Thanks!


serenityjmiller profile image

serenityjmiller 18 months ago from Brookings, SD

You are very welcome - I must say you're the most interesting author I've found here so far! Thank you for the diverse and thoughtful content.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 12 hours ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Churches come in all sizes and shapes. The holidays are a great time to wander into one!

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    Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran532 Followers
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    Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.



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