Sunday, November 12, 2017

Grace Lutheran, Worland Wyoming


This is Grace Lutheran in Worland Wyoming.  Other than the name and the location, I'm afraid I can't provide any other details about this particular church.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

St. Peter's Catholic Church, Greeley Colorado.


This is St. Peter's Catholic Church in Greeley, Colorado.  The Gothic style church was built in 1909.  In addition to serving the residents of Greeley, it also serves the students of the University of Northern Colorado.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Abundant Life Fellowship, Greeley Colorado.


This church houses the Abundant Life Fellowship in Greeley, Colorado.  The church is a Gothic style older church, but I otherwise know nothing about it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Greeley Mennonite Church, Greeley Colorado.


This is the Greeley Mennonite Church in Greeley Colorado.  The church was originally a Lutheran church but I don't know when it the Prairie Gothic church was built.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lex Anteinternet: The dogma lives loudly within you

Lex Anteinternet: The dogma lives loudly within you: Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean; but he denied...

Friday, August 18, 2017

St. Anthony's Catholic Church. Upton, Wyoming.


St. Anthony is a very popular patron saint for Catholic Churches in Wyoming for reasons of which I'm not aware. This is one of three churches in the Diocese of Cheyenne which is dedicated to St. Anthony.


This St. Anthony's is the smallest, being in the smallest town. This Prairie Gothic Catholic Church is located in small Upton, Wyoming, near the Black Hills.  It's a mission church of the church in Newcastle.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

St. John's Ukrainian Catholic Church. Belfield, North Dakota


Belfield, North Dakota has a population of 800 people and four Catholic Churches, which says something about the nature of this region of the United States.  One of those four, St. John's, is a Ukrainian Catholic Church.


We featured a Ukrainian Catholic Church here for the first time yesterday.  Here we are doing it for a second time in the same region, and in fact at a location that's only a few miles down the highway from the one we featured yesterday.


In parts of the United States we've featured before, such as East Texas, seeing something like this in regards to Baptist churches wouldn't be unusual.  Here we're seeing a much different cultural history at work, and a very interesting one at that.

Monday, August 14, 2017

St. Demetrius Ukrainian (Greek) Catholic Church. Fairfield, North Dakota


This is St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church which is outside of Fairfield, North Dakota.  The church is over a century old and gives testament to the enduring Ukrainian presence in the prairie states and provinces of the West.


This is one of several Ukrainian Catholic churches in western North Dakota and its the first Ukrainian Catholic Church to be featured here (a prior entry on the topic of the Ukrainian Catholic Church referenced a biritual priest then in Lander Wyoming.  People with a casual familairity with the Catholic Church tend to believe that all Catholic Churches are "Roman" Catholic, but this is far from true.


Just as Catholic as "Roman" (Latin Rite) Catholic Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to give it its full name, is one of a collection of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.  The Catholic Church features three major groupings of Rites based on this initial early transmission of the faith. These are the Latin, Antiochian, Alexandrian and Byzantine, with the Byzantine having derived from the Antiochean.  All still survive in spite of the rift created by the Great Schism which caused separate churches that are not in communion with Rome, typically called "Orthodox" churches, to also come into existence which also descend from all but the Latin Rite.  From these four groups come something on the order of twenty three Rites, of which the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is one.



The history of this particular Rite is not well known to me and it is difficult to fully know it without an in depth study.  This is part made confusing because it is one of the two major churches of the Ukraine, both of which use the Eastern Rite liturgical form, but only one of which is in communion with Rome.  The other major Ukrainian Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, is an Eastern Orthodox Church (usually called "the Greek Church" by native Ukrainians) which is regarded as a self governing church by the Russian Orthodox Church, but only by the Russian Orthodox Church.


The Ukrainian Catholic Church has an ancient history dating back to the Christianization of the Ukraine itself.  Because of the Ukraine's close association with Russia there has always been some tension between its status and that of the Russian Orthodox Church and this was greatly increased during the life of the Soviet Union as the USSR suppressed and drove underground the Ukrainian Catholic Church while favoring the Russian Orthodox Church.  Today the Ukrainian Catholic Church is claimed to have the allegiance of a minority but growing percentage of the population of the Ukraine, at the expense of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but frankly telling what is what in regards to this history is difficult.


This church predates the establishment of the USSR, of course, and reflects a strong late 19th Century and early 20th Century Ukrainian migration to the prairie regions of North America.  Coming from a wheat growing region and stemming from a population of independent small farmers, Ukrainians were reestablishing that pattern of life on the North American prairie.  It's perhaps telling that so many Ukrainian Catholic Churches are present in this region, rather than Russian Orthodox, and that either says something about the populations that migrated or the allegiance of Ukrainians at that time.


The Ukrainians have proved to be enduring as a culture in North American in these regions, which these churches show.  In terms of their organizational structure, while fully Catholic (any Catholic is free to worship at any Catholic church, irrespective of Rite) they are subject to their own jurisdiction. Therefore, they are not part of the Diocese of Bismarck, but rather the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago, which covers over half of the United States and all of the western United States.


Indeed, in recent years the Ukranian nature of this Eastern Rite church, together with the Slavic and Eastern nature of the second major Eastern Rite Catholic Church in the United States, the Byzantine Catholic Church (sometimes called the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church) have increased.  In the late 19th Century the Church in the United States had a Latinization policy in an attempt to unite all Catholics in North America more fully under the belief that this would help incorporate Catholics into society more ably, but this has been reversed.  At the present time the Catholic Church has sought to preserve the Eastern Rites wherever possible and this has lead to a de-Latinization process and a revival of practices that never diminished in Europe.




Sunday, August 13, 2017

St. Peter Canisius Catholic Church, Grassy Butte, North Dakota


This Prairie Gothic Catholic Church in tiny Grassy Butte, North Dakota, is closed, a victim of the declining fortunes of small farming towns in the West and Midwest.  The church was quite active until the fortunes of the town changed and services were switched to another local building that had more modern amenities.  In 2007 the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, sold the church and its obviously fairly well maintained, although I don't know what its current use is.


The name of the church reflects the German heritage of the town, as St. Peter Canisius was a Dutch Jesuit who was active and successful in countering the Reformation in Germany.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Community Presbyterian Church, Fairview Montana


This is the Community Presbyterian Church in Fairview, Montana. This small Gothic style church in north eastern Montana is just outside of the North Dakota state line.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

St. David's Catholic Church, Broadus Montana



These are photos of St. David's Catholic Church in Broadus Montana. The Prairie Gothic style church was built in 1931 and is a mission church of Sacred Heart Church in Miles City.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

First Lutheran Church, Watford City, North Dakota.



This Gothic style church is the First Lutheran Church in Watford City, North Dakota. The church was originally built in 1915, expanded in 1939, but destroyed in a fire in 1945.  The church was rebuilt in 1950.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stop! Don't change that Church!

A theme, if not always an obvious one, of this blog is architecture.

And  nothing does more violence to traditional, serviceable, and beautiful architecture, than "updating" it for any reason.

Just don't.

A case in point.


The photograph above, unfortunately not entirely in focus and in black and white, dates from November 1958.  It depicts St. Anthony's of Padua Church in Casper Wyoming on the occasion of my parents wedding.

Now, St. Anthony's remains a beautiful church today, but if we had a picture of the interior (which I don't from this angle) and if we had this picture in sharper focus (which it isn't) and in color (which it is not), we'd notice some changes right away.

And they aren't good ones.

The altarpiece and the altar are all still there.  The cross painted on the wall behind the altarpiece is also still there.  But many other things have changed.

Most obvious, the beautiful marble altar rail in this photograph, a gift of the Schulte family when the church was built, is gone.  I was told that a part of it can be found now in a local restaurant, which I hope is not true.  If it is true, I've never seen it, so it must be some place I don't go to.  It's not clear here, but the gate for the altar rail was marble with heavy brass hinges.  A true work of art in every sense.

The heavy brass lanterns hanging from the ceiling are also gone.

What appears to be a marble ambo is gone as well, replaced by a very nice wooden (walnut?) one.

The statute of St. Patrick moved across town to St. Patrick's, which sort of makes sense. The funds to build St. Patrick's came from St. Anthony's donors, many of whom were Irish, to that we'd ultimately send the statute of the Patron Saint of Ireland over there, which we did only fairly recently, does square with the general them there.. The statute of St. Anthony has been moved to a different spot, but it looks good where it is.

I'm not certain what sort of floor covering we're looking at here, probably carpet, and of course we have new carpet.  But what would strike anyone looking at this photo about what is next to the carpet, the pews, is that the pews are now cantered to face towards the center of the alter.

Okay, what's up with all of that, and was it an improvement?

Well, I suppose that's in the eye of the beholder, as all such things are, but in my view, the answer is a very distinct "no".

It's funny how these things work.  I can remember all of the features depicted here, including the altar rail, even though I was very young when at least that feature came out.  But, at the time, I don't think I thought much about it, if I thought about it all.  I don't remember the Mass being in Latin at all, although when I was very, very young, it must have been.  Anyhow, while these things didn't bother me at the time, or the one change that I recall from when I was a bit older, the cantering of the pews, didn't bother me much, now they do.

That may be because I now have a greater appreciation for history and tradition than I did when I was just a boy, although I had a sense of that at the time.

The cocked angle of the pews, remnants of a decision made by a Priest in the 1970s or perhaps early 80s,  has been something I've never liked, even if I understand the intent behind it.  Not visible in this photograph, a row of pews that were in the middle of the church were taken out to facilitate twice as many Communion servers.  It's awkward and always has been and should not have been done.  Indeed, as this was the only Catholic Church in town with it was built, it was probably jam packed nearly every Mass and they seemed to manage to get by just fine. For that matter, I've been in plenty of packed Catholic churches where everyone came up to the front of the church and it always worked just fine as well.  Having said that, changing the angle of the pews didn't do a great disservice to the church even if it didn't really help it any.

Another matter, however, is the altar rail.

Now altar rails turn out to be a surprisingly hot button item to people not familiar with them.

All Latin Rite Catholic Churches and Anglican Churches had altar rails. Chances are very high that other churches close in form to the Catholic Church also had them, I just don't know. Their purposes was to provide a place for communicants to kneel when receiving communion.  Prior to Vatican II (1962 to 1965) all Latin Catholic in modern times received communion on the tongue.  Communicants would kneel at the altar rail and receive communion.

You'd think that finding a public domain photograph of communicants receiving communion at an altar rail would b easy, but it isn't.  This almost illustrates it in a better fashion, however.  British solders lined up, as if there is an altar rail, and receiving communion in teh field in North Africa.  Off hand, I suspect that this is an Anglican service.

Now, before we get too far down this road it should be noted that people can get really up in arms about this in all sorts of ways and some traditionalist will insist that communion can only properly be received kneeling and on the tongue.  This doesn't seem to be true and certainly wasn't universally the case.  Indeed, originally, the very first Christians, received communion in the hand and you can find very early writings that effect.  However, traditionalist will hotly dispute what those writings and the other evidence actually means. Given as I'm not getting into that debate, I'm not going there and that isn't the point of this entry.

What is the point is that altar rails were an integral part of the design of churches for an extremely long time. Take anything out of a well designed building and you risk subtracting from its design. That's exactly what I think occurred here.

Which isn't to say that I feel that St. Anthony's is a bad looking Church now, far from it. It's still a beautiful church. But it was more beautiful before the marble altar rail was taken out.

Indeed, the problem with making alterations to these well designed structures is that any time that this is done it risks giving into a temporary view in favor of a more traditional element that was integral in the design of the structure while doing damage to its appearance.  All Catholic churches up until the id 1960s were designed to have altar rails.  Taking them out may have served what was, and perhaps is, the view of the day in regards to worship, but it also means that a major feature of the interior of the building, to which careful consideration had been given, was now missing.

And it turns out that, contrary to widely held belief, they did not have to be removed.

Most people believe that the altar rails were taken out as it was somehow required post Vatican II.  It wasn't.  Rather, for whatever reason changes in the Mass now allowed them to be.  They didn't have to be.  Theoretically it was apparently up to individual Pastors on whether they thought an altar rail should be removed, but given as in Wyoming they are nearly all missing, it might have been the case that the decision to remove them was made at the Diocesan level.  The motivating thought here was that the altar rail served to act as a sort of barrier to connection between the people and the Offering of the Mass, and those who supported altar rail removal often felt fairly strongly about that (as we'll see below).  This was, I think, part of an overall change in the Mass at that time, when it went from Latin to the local vernacular, as the Celebrant had faced Ad Oreintum while offering the Mass.  That is, the Priest faced his altar, as a rule, with his back to the Congregation.  

Now all of this gets into some fairly complicated symbolic matters.  There's some truth to the view held by those who argued for the new position and removing the altar rails, in at he "we're all one together sense". There a counter point, however, that maybe the Ad Oreintum orientation actually served that better, as the Priest was facing the same direction for significant portions of the Mass that the parishioners were.   That is, by way of a poor example, if somebody faced you in a large group they're more likely to have some elevated authority over you than if somebody has their back to you, in which case they can be argued to be working with you.  Interestingly in recent years there's been a slow return in some areas to the Ad Oreintum orientation, particularly following Cardinal Sarah's suggestion that this was a better form. The Cardinal occupies a high position at the Vatican and therefore his views cannot be easily discounted.  As has been noted in regards to this there's actually never been an official position on which orientation is better, and in some ancient and modern churches the Ad Orientum position is actually impossible.

In any event, what that did was in part to remove an item that was closely connected to the church and hence the parish and the parishioners.  In this case, the altar rail itself had been a gift from a family early in the parish's history.  In Catholic parishes the pastor is usually there for about seven years and bishops can be in office for long or short periods. However, as the parishioners are often there for decades, that means the traditional in which they participated was removed by individuals who were there on a more temporary basis.  It was certainly "legal", if you will, but it might not have been well advised.

The same is true of most, but not all, of the interior changes to the church. A person can debate the aesthetics of the heavy brass lighting, but the church was built with it in mind and the features that once decorated where it attached to the building remain there to this day.  The removal of one confessional, the relocation, in an awkward fashion, of a place for "music ministers" to stand that resulted, and all of that, were done in a heartfelt fashion, but often to the ascetic detriment of the church which was not built with remodels in mind.

This touches, moreover, on the larger topic of church architecture itself, which as been addressed in another one of our rare commentary threads here.  These older churches are better looking as the architecture and design that came in during the 1970s was not as good as earlier architecture, and according to some focused more on the congregation than on the Divine.  This blog was at one time going to avoid all such churches in general, but as time has gone on its put up posts of quite a few.  Many of these churches are just not good looking. By the same token, many alterations to older churches are not good looking either.

As I noted when I started off, a lot of this stuff did not bother me when I was a child and experiencing it, but it does now.  Indeed, the removal of the altar rail in this church frankly makes me mad when I think of it.  I wish it could go back in.  It won't, of course, but the whole thing upsets me.  I'm not alone, I think, on this sort of thinking and I think it reflects a generational befuddlement with the generations immediately preceding us which seems to have had, in many instances, low respect for tradition in general.  In civil society, in terms of structures, this is probably why we now see all sorts of effort to restore the appearance of old buildings whose owners in the 50s, 60s, and 70s didn't give a second thought about making them ugly through renovation. A prime example of that is the Wyoming National Bank building in Casper Wyoming which was made to look hideous by the additional of a weird steel grating in the 1950s to its exterior which was supposed to make it look modern.  It mostly served to house pigeons and was removed in the 2000s when the building was redone and converted to apartments.

Now, not every one feels this way, I should note.  Particularly in regards to churches.  When I posted this same photograph on Facebook, a friend of mine with a few years on me posted this reply (I hadn't commented on the altar rails in my original post):
So happy that the railings have come down and the hats came off! The church is still so beautiful.
I agree that the church remains beautiful, and I agree that the women wearing head coverings is a tradition that I don't miss, but I don't feel that way about the altar rail at all.

I suspect my friends comment goes to a "spirit of Vatican II" feeling that she's old enough to have experienced and which I not only am not, but which I don't really share enthusiasm for.  It's important to note that Vatican II and "the spirit of Vatican II" are not the same thing.  "The spirit" thing was a zeitgeist of the times which took a decidedly more liberal and less traditional view of things, no doubt an "open the windows and doors and let some fresh air in". Some of that was likely needed but as is often the case with people who are in a "let in the fresh air" movement the realization that cold winds high winds can come in through the same windows and doors and do damage is rarely appreciated. 

And its all too easy when traditions which are simply traditions are tossed to begin to toss out with them things that are more than tradition.  I'm not saying that occurred here with altar rails but I will be frankly that the 1970s saw a lot of innovations, some of them very local poorly thought out that were, in some cases, quite problematic. The generation that thought removing the altar rails was a good idea proved willing to entertain a lot of things in this area that turned out to be big problems for everyone else.

Part of that is because traditions are anchors in a way; moorings to the the past.  People of a "fresh air" bent will claim that a person shouldn't be bound by the past. That's true, but tradition is also in some cases the vote, or the expression of experience, of the dead and should not be lightly discounted.  Not only does casting out traditions tend to sever anchors, but all too often the severing simply puts people adrift in seas that they're not well prepared to handle. At its worst, the severing of traditions is a rejection of the long and carefully thought out in favor of the temporarily current and the poorly thought out.

Which is why, for many people of the post Vatican II generation the "Spirit of Vatican II" generation, when moored in their own changes, can seem now old fashioned.  Ironically younger generations have been busy for some time "reforming the reform", which means in the mainstream keeping the reforms that proved worthwhile and reversing those that did not.  Tradition has, in some instances, come back in the opened door after having been swept out it, but with a younger generation.

All of which is well off point on what this thread started out being about.  And I'm not going to start a "restore the altar rail" movement, locally or on the internet.  But I feel it was a shame that it was taken out, and to the extent that alterations that should not have taken place for ascetic reasons in regards to older structures can be repaired, they ought to be.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet: Our Lady Derzhavnaya, Icon, found in Kolomenskoye, Russia after having been lost during the Napoleonic invasion

Our Lady Derzhavnaya, Icon, found in Kolomenskoye, Russia after having been lost during Napoleonic invasion.

Our Lady Derzhavnaya, icon.
The Our Lady Derzhavnaya, "the Reigning Icon" was found on this date in 1917 in  Kolomenskoye, Russia.
The icon is believed to have been painted in the 18th Century by an unknown iconographer.  It was removed from Ascension Convent in Moscow province during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia  and hidden in the village church in Kolomenskoye, where it was forgotten.  On this date, in 1917, peasant woman Evdokia Adrianova, from the village of Pererva in Moscow Province, related that she had a dream in which the Blessed Virgin appeared and instructed her to go to the village of Kolomenskoye, where she would find an old icon which, "will change color from black to red."  She did in fact travel to Kolomenskoye and related her story to the village priest who accepted her story and helped her search. They found the icon, which was covered with candle soot, and discovered upon taking it outside that the icon depicted the Blessed Virgin wearing a red robe and with regal symbols.  Because of the day of the event, Russian Orthodox faithful have interpreted the appearance in connection with the abdication of Czar Nicholas II on the same day.

The icon has also been associated by some with the Marian apparitions at Fatima that commenced on May 13, 1917.  This is so much the case that the the Reigning Icon and the Theotokos of Port Arthur icon have been twice taken to Fatima, once in 2003 and once in 2014, a fairly remarkable effort given their age and the degree of attachment to them by the Russian Orthodox, particularly Russian Orthodox emigres, and all the more remarkable given Fatima's strong association with Catholicism..  The icon today is installed in the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral.
Theotokos of Port Arthur icon, which also was taken to Fatima in 2003 and 2014 by Russian Orthodox faithful and which had also been lost.  It was found in 1998 by Russian Orthodox pilgrims in a Jerusalem antique shop.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

St. Brendan Catholic Mission Church, Jeffrey City Wyoming.


This is St. Brendan Mission Church in Jeffrey City, Wyoming.  The Church is served by Holy Rosary Church in Lander Wyoming.

This is one of those photos here that isn't particularly good, as light conditions were completely wrong for the photo when I took it.  However, as I take these when the opportunity presents itself, I went ahead and photographed the church.  If I have the chance, I'll swap it out for a better photograph at some later date.

This small church appears to have been converted from a building used for some other purpose originally in small Jeffrey City.

Eden Valley Baptist Church, Farson Wyoming


This is the Eden Valley Baptist Church in Farson Wyoming.  Other than that is what it is, I don't know anything else about it.


Latter Day Saints, Farson Wyoming.


These photographs are of the Mormon church in Farson Wyoming.  I was stopped to take a photograph of something else at the time, which explains the unusual camera angle of these photos.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

Christ United Methodist Church, Casper Wyoming


Another one of the many Casper churches I hadn't gotten around to photographing, Christ United Methodist Church as photographed out my Jeep windshield. 

I don't know the history of this church but it likely dates to the 1950s.  It hasn't always been a Methodist church and in fact was part of a swap by this congregation for another building they had to another denomination as each of their respective buildings worked better for the other.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Pinedale Wyoming


This is Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Pinedale, Wyoming.   Construction of the church commenced in November, 1959 (in the winter!) and was completed in 1960.  There are plans to renovate the church given the increase in parishioners over the years.


St. Andrew's In the Pines Episcopal Church, Pinedale Wyoming


Early morning, and poorly focused, photograph of Pinedale's St. Andrew's In the Pines in Pinedale, Wyoming.  This is a nice log structure, but I don't know its vintage.