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Ordination at "Fort Bennison"
Ungodly Rant ^ | 12/13/2006

Posted on 12/27/2006 6:26:50 PM PST by sionnsar

This past Saturday I was privileged to attend the ordinations of Abraham and Zachariah to the diaconate. The stories of these two men are inspiring, and that they have come this far is an inspiration.

I call myself a Christian, but I've never had to suffer for my faith. I've lived a sheltered life of white privelege as a member of the American middle classes. I went to college on money left to me by my grandmother, I inherited a second home, I have never known what it is to do without, I have never had to fear for my physical survival.

But Abraham and Zachariah have survived horrors that I cannot even begin to imagine, and have traveled thousands of miles to America and made their lives in a new, foreign land and have managed to be ordained in the Episcopal Church. It is nothing short of amazing. Their faith is an inspiration that makes mine look cheap in comparison.

From what I understand, of all the Anglican Sudanese refugees in this country, they are the third and fourth in the country to be ordained into the Episcopal Church, and they have their work cut out for them, for they have been chosen to serve at the Sudanese mission parish that is connected with our parish. They have a large population of Anglican Sudanese refugees, and this way, these people who have lost their families, lost their homes and lost their native cultures will at least be able to attend masses in their own language and worship in their own community.

My heart swelled with pride when I saw our theologically wishy-washy bishop lay his hands on their heads and ordain as Deacons. They have their work cut out for them, and they assume the responsibilities without complaint. May God bless them and their ministry in His church.

The ordination was overwhelming for me--not just because of the pride and amazement I felt regarding the ordinands, but because of the location. It was the first time I'd been in our cathedral in eight years, and I was remembering the last time I was in our cathedral--for my mother's graduation from Western Michigan University's social work program in 1998. The Social Work department rented the cathedral for its commencement. Being back there was overwhelming because I kept thinking of my mother, graduating in 1998, moving back to New Jersey when she got her job, and then dying just four years later of a disease we'd never heard of. I watched the acolytes walking in circles (more on that later) and kept thinking about how the graduating class processed in from the basement and walked in circles and sat down. It doesn't seem possible that it was eight years ago--nearly a decade. Time goes so fast. My mother has been dead almost five years, and her commencement seems recent.

Anyway... more on our cathedral. I have always called it "Fort Bennison" and it requires some thought on my part to recall that its real name is "The Cathedral of Christ the King." It was built in the 1960s, by Bishop Bennison, and was an improvement on the old cathedral for the diocese, which was St. Mark's in Grand Rapids. St. Mark's ran out of room, so the bishop had this vision of building a new, modern cathedral. And it has developed an almost infamous reputation for its sheer ugliness. A nightmarish conglomeration of 1960s architecture, it commits every aesthetic sin on the books. It looks like a prison. It is massive and dark and surrounded by cement, and its the ideal place to go to survive a hurricane or a nuclear attack, because inside, you are surrounded by thick walls of concrete. It would make an ideal bomb shelter.

It is visible from I-94, just east of Kalamazoo. When I was a child, we would drive by the cathedral and my mother would say "You see that ugly building? It's not a prison, it's a cathedral, people actually go to church there. " And from its ground-breaking there has been a large contingent of the diocese thinking we can't afford to maintain the thing, and now it appears that they are right because our bankrupt diocese can't afford it. I can't imagine who would buy it-- and I wonder about what will become of all the people whose remains were interred in its memorial garden...

The inside is just as appalling. The altar is in the center of the building, and is a massive concrete circle that looks like a butcher's block. There is no center aisle for brides to march down, and the congregation sits in chairs set up around the altar. I watched the acolytes from our parish walking in circles around the altar with the cross, and couldn't help but laugh. I don't know if the nickname "Fort Bennison" is still well-known, but its the first name that comes to mind when I envision the building.

Anyway. Pray for God's blessings on the minsistries of Abraham and Zachariah.

"The Cathedral of Christ the King," aka "Fort Bennison" as seen from I-94, east of Kalmazoo.

The inside of the cathedral. Note the large concrete thing in the center. That's what they call an altar.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: episcopal; sudan; uglychurches
[I had to laugh when I saw the pictures of this cathedral. Can't say which is uglier, this or the Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle (St. Mark's, which was apparently *designed* to be a bomb shelter and) which is rather ugly -- though I can say personally St. Mark's acoustics are absolutely incredible for solo bagpipe! --sionnsar]
1 posted on 12/27/2006 6:26:52 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 12/27/2006 6:28:21 PM PST by sionnsar (|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar

Reminds me of a temple to a Mesopotamian idol.

3 posted on 12/27/2006 6:34:59 PM PST by rabscuttle385 (Sic Semper Tyrannis * Allen for U.S. Senate in '08)
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To: sionnsar

Modern Stonehenge. Filled with modern Druids.

4 posted on 12/27/2006 6:47:14 PM PST by Gman (AMiA Priest.)
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To: rabscuttle385; Gman

I'll say this in their defense: it's not the architecture of the building; I've seen ugly church buildings where the faith is alive. My own parish church could be a winner in the "Thoroughly Boring" category -- but it becomes a different picture when one meets the parishioners.

5 posted on 12/27/2006 7:05:51 PM PST by sionnsar (|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar
That's not just ugly.

It's MEANT to be ugly.

I can't imagine that any architect would be unaware of the effect that the color and the exaggerated "battlements" would produce. A dark and lowering blot on the landscape.

6 posted on 12/27/2006 7:28:45 PM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: sionnsar

The design was inspired by Stonehenge and the Pantheon.

My thought is that they planned a second story, but ran out of money before they could add the roof and curtain walls. It has to be one of the ugliest church buildings that I have seen.

I visited a town south of Indianapolis one time (Columbus?) which was proud of the architecture of its churches. A few of those were quite ugly as well but nothing in this league.

Here's a selection:,_Columbus,_Indiana

7 posted on 12/27/2006 11:40:36 PM PST by PAR35
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To: PAR35

Well, I'm glad to see that it's not just us Catholics who've allowed the uglification of our building stock! There are so many ugly, unglorious and unedifying Catholic Churches around that it's hard to keep track...however 'Fort Bennison' takes the cake. That's simply the ugliest bldg I've or otherwise.

8 posted on 12/28/2006 7:16:24 AM PST by pgkdan
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To: pgkdan
That's simply the ugliest bldg I've or otherwise.

I'll have to agree with that. I've seen some modern Churches which are attractive (although my personal preference is traditional), but the one featured here sets new standards in ugliness.

Perhaps on a slow news day we could start a high - graphics thread for ugliest churches, although he already appear to have a winner.

9 posted on 12/28/2006 11:21:54 AM PST by PAR35
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