One of my recent tasks has been to try and find a new home for our growing Jesuit community. I went house hunting with a Jesuit friend the other day and we found that we strongly disagreed about where the chapel should be situated in any new residence.
I automatically looked for a room in the basement, whereas he would default to one of the major upstairs rooms. While this disagreement possibly caused caused some wry amusement for the real estate agent, it left me feeling unsettled. On the ride home, we hashed out our different approaches.
My friend believes that the chapel should be at the center (physically, psychologically and spiritually) of the community and, therefore, should occupy one of the most important spaces in any religious community. He also likes his chapels to have stained glass, incense and that sort of thing.
I, on the other hand, prefer a basement room because it is more womb-like, cocooning and nurturing. I like the idea of going “away” to pray, going down the stairs into a quiet and calm environment. I also tend to think of basement chapels as being less ornate than upstairs ones and I still have enough Presbyterian DNA in me to prefer my prayer and worship spaces to be as close to a New England meeting house as we can get.
Where do you stand on the issue? Upfront and ornate or down low and undramatic?