Wave Church, 2009
I must confess to feeling a little sheepish about showing this picture.
It was taken last summer at a large church located at the edge of my neighborhood. This is one of those churches that preaches a concept that I’m told is known as “prosperity Christianity.” You know, the kind where God wants to have that Lexus. The heck with the “least among us.”
Anyway, this group bought an old and much smaller church located at the site and bulldozed it down so that they could build a dazzling new edifice—they actually call it a “convention center—that seats something like 2,500 people at each of several services on Sunday and throughout the week. It’s a striking building, all glass and aluminum on the façade with bold punches of yellow and blue. Most people think it looks more like a Silicon Valley semiconductor plant than a church. But I find that to be one of the ironies of mega churches; they preach “old time” religion, but cloak it in the latest style.
I won't belabor the point other than to say that this church hasn’t been a very good neighbor. Its members don’t live in the immediate area. Attempts by neighbors to talk to church officials about traffic congestion and the helicopter they were using to ferry their minister in and out on Sunday mornings were rudely rebuffed. They referred all communications to their attorney.
So when they sought permission from the city to replace their old magnetic letter sign out by the street with a larger, brighter LED sign that would have allowed them to stream video and whatever else they wanted to display into the eyes of drivers and the windows of dozens of neighboring homes, I joined in with neighbors to try to prevent the LED sign from being constructed.
A petition was quickly circulated and gathered almost 2,00o names of neighboring residents who opposed the new sign. Representatives of the neighborhood met with the local planning commission. Our borough’s City Council representative attended a well-attended neighborhood meeting about the issue. A bunch of people went and spoke at the Council meeting where the vote on the sign would be held.
And then all but one of our city council members voted in favor of the sign. Of course, we neighbors were disappointed. But it bothered me more than council had taken ownership of the neighborhood away from the residents. At a time when civic engagement isn’t what it should be, this seemed, well, boneheaded.
So I wrote an opinion piece critical of the church’s behavior and of the Council’s vote against the wishes of the neighbors. It ran at the top of the local newspaper’s op-ed page and was picked up by a variety of civic leagues and civic engagement web sites around the region. Other people across our city are using it as a rallying point for increasing civic engagement in their areas.
I took about a dozen decent shots of the Wave Church one day last summer. I like shooting architecture. But given my stance towards the church I feel a little dirty in retrospect for even having stepped onto their parking lot with my camera.