© 2024 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Church Building Theology

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

There it is, on the first page of the scrapbook. It may be a Congregational church in Geneseo, or a Baptist church in Burlington, or the Presbyterians in Maquoketa, the small clapboard white rectangle of a building is almost identical.

Pioneer churches along our Mississippi Valley were spare, no-nonsense structures. Up a few stairs at the front was a central door. Three or four plain windows measured the sides of the building. A small cupola at the far end, perhaps with a bell, stood in for a steeple. Plain white plaster walls wainscoted halfway up formed a box for the straight-backed benches facing the front in hard rows above the wide-board floors.

Picture number two is the new brick or stone church next to the wood one. Stained glass windows, a steeple, and handsome railings complement the brick or stone.

Picture three shows the new balcony.

Turn the page and look at the new additions complete with landscaping. There is perhaps an educational wing for Sunday school classes off to the left. In the parking lot are several Model A's.

If you flip through the rest of the pages fast enough, the church will grow like a movie, with larger steeples, fancier entrances, new carpeting, and original oil paintings flying into place. Zoom, there goes the new four rank pipe organ. Plop, here comes the bell tower and five bells. And the air conditioning, the padded pews, the soft indirect lighting, the new kitchen, a recreation hall, the nursery. And finally, a modern spectacular architectural shell to enclose it all.

Go back now to that austere white church on page one, the one your great grandparents built. Compare their theology with yours, and you'll see that it's not only the buildings that have been remodeled. That simple pioneer faith with its sense of duty and responsibility has been the subject of some redecorating, too. What frills we've added, what comfortable padding on the pews, what toasty heating, what veneers and plastic imitations and muted colors.

And all lit with the latest and most modern and very indirect lighting.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.