Reflections on Design and Worldmaking

Architecture of Persuasion


A recent Sunday morning Catholic Mass was a fine opportunity to witness the impact of considered design. My Northeastern childhood was shaped by the routines and customs of churchgoing: religious education, rites of passage, visual symbology laid on thick, expectations set by older clergy, and of course, old buildings. But, over the last twenty years my attendance at Mass has only included a few obligations. Living in the Southwest, some elements of the experience are noticeably different, seemingly influenced by late-90s era retail Christianity. They include a more consumable form of the Holy Spirit’s mythology, and a messaging architecture that compliments the stage-like design of the alter.


Other nuances at play:

  • The exterior: more mission style (this might just be a regional/cultural distinction influenced by the large Hispanic congregation)
  • The interior: a nod to the stages and venues of the mega church, but at smaller scale
  • The performances: including 2 priests, one supporting and one lead who emerges from behind the pulpit to deliver the eulogy; he engages the audience with questions, expects group responses, talks to and with instead of just at
  • The priest’s language: more pedestrian, motivational and intrapersonal; less exclusive and challenging
  • The music: not just an organ but a piano and trumpet (from old school “somber” to new school “exalted”)
  • The money: in abundance at this church which raked in 60K in collections the week prior and has raised 5 million this year
  • The adulation: a line 20 yards deep of men, women, and children waiting for a moment with the star of the show (including shugs, brah-hugs, and photo-bombs)

Below, Father Bebel, a fine old school Catholic priest from home.


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