July 19, 2005

Big churches: a heaven's eye view

In honour (as dubious as that may be) of the inaugural service in Joel Osteen's new Lakewood Church, I thought I'd do some Google sightseeing this week of some big or significant churches.

Here, for example, is the culprit itself: the 16,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston, formerly the Compaq Center, where the Houston Rockets used to play. This is now the largest church in the United States. And I thought my church, with around 1,700 regulars, was hard to get to know people . . .

But speaking of evangelical megachurches, here's one a little more my speed (not to mention a bit more meat than Osteen's gospel-free pabulum): Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, pastored by John MacArthur. I wonder if it looks as interesting from the ground as it does from the air?

Here is Canada's largest church: St.-Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. It is a Roman Catholic basilica, built between 1924 and 1967; the dome is second only to St. Peter's Basilica in size. Montreal has three other basilicas: Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Montreal; Notre Dame Basilica; and St. Patrick's Basilica.

Taking a turn for the unorthodox, the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) temple in Independence, Missiouri is probably the most distinctive church building I've ever seen. That helical spire is just plain funky.

Way out in left field is the former Cedars of Lebanon complex in Los Angeles, a major Scientology centre (it used to be the world headquarters). Also check out their "spiritual headquarters" in Clearwater, Florida: the former Fort Harrison Hotel (with the tile roof and swimming pool). The building to the east with all the square turrets is the so-called "Super Power" building, which has been unfinished for a number of years. (Guess those powers aren't super enough to cough up some cash). Scientology owns something like $40 million worth of downtown Clearwater, and have driven away all the legitimate business.