We spent most of our recent holidays in St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes. We decided not to take a holiday from church and went to the local chapel on the Sunday morning. The view through the sanctuary windows to the lake and mountains beyond is probably even more dramatic than the views from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo, St James Anglican Church in Franz Josef, the Arthur’s Pass Chapel or the Mission Hall in Glenorchy. Have I missed any chapels or churches in New Zealand that have great views? Let me know.
All of these churches combine the beauty of creation with worship and thanksgiving of the creator. They also combine man-made architecture with a sense of the great outdoors. They have both a sense of enclosed space alongside the open space. Being in such wonderful locations does make them ideal for this window on natural beauty.
This sense of beauty in church architecture is nothing new—after all Gothic cathedrals and churches were constructed to bring more light into a building and to create a nearly heavenly, certainly beautiful atmosphere. Our very own church here at St Paul’s is in the Gothic Revival style and seeks to bring light into the building. However, it shields the outside through stained glass windows.
I am fascinated by the theology and thought that underlies church architecture. I really like these chapels that have a view to the dramatic outside world. They remind us that the God’s redemption of humanity takes place within the wider sphere of creation.
However, it was not just the great view at St Arnaud that was refreshing. The people there were really welcoming. It was like a big home group that was ready to host visitors every week. The service was very informal, but still uplifting. During the service we were reminded that even in such a place of beauty, even when we are involved with the most fascinating activities, it is still our relationship with God through Jesus Christ that brings real value and hope to our lives.