Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crystal Cathedral

On my Facebook page I posted a message related to my blog entry of Wednesday. The message illicited some questions regarding my relative who was a clergyman at the Sailors' Snug Harbor on Staten Island, New York.

This relative was a Reformed Dutch minister. As I was writing my responses, I remembered hearing about the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California filing for bankruptcy last fall. Rev. Robert Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral, is an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America. The predecessor of the RCA was the Reformed Dutch Church.

A child, I was living in Garden Grove when Rev. Schuller built his church like a drive-in theater. People could park in the church's parking lot, roll down a window in the car, place a speaker and hear Rev. Schuller conduct a Sunday service. At that time, I really did not know that he was a minister of any "mainline" religion and I was not aware of the Reformed Church in America.

I do remember thinking that this was really weird. Over the years there were many people who joined his congregation and obviously did not see anything odd about a drive-in church.

A chicken vs. the egg question: I do not recall if Rev. Schuller's church had moved away from speakers in the parking lot before drive-in theaters became a thing of the past or if the demise of the drive-in theater influenced the changes at his church. Whichever it was, at some point the drive-in speakers in the parking lot disappeared and the Crystal Cathedral was built.

Philip Johnson was the architect who designed the Crystal Cathedral. I was studying environmental and interior design at UCLA during this time. Philip Johnson was a very well-known architect who had constructed some really beautiful and innovative buildings.

Although the building was gorgeous, I had a hard time understanding why a church would spend so much money on a building. My church like so many others in Orange County California was simple. Simplicity was the view of the Reformed Dutch Church in America and the Puritan churches in the 17th and 18th centuries. So I was really surprised when I learned that Rev. Schuller was an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America.

The other side of me, a marketing executive, saw his brilliance as a salesman.

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