Here I stand in the mother house of stuff-it-yourself projects. Cabbage
Patch Dolls and Beanie Babies are your mother’s toys. Welcome to the
“interactive shopping experience” of Build a Bear Workshop!
This flag-ship store is a merchandising frenzy. There are eight stations,
each offering a gazillion bear essentials. Besides legions of pint-sized
individual shoppers and their families, there are invitation-only parties
happening as well. Party-goers build bears.
The process is similar to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Begin with the “Pick
Me” station. Plush coverings are available for $10. The kids, of course, all
want the high-end $30 shells. End at the “Take Me Home” station. In between you
will find colored stuffing, clothes, fashion accessories, food, furniture,
eyeglasses, and even camping equipment. At the “Hear Me” station, decide what
you want your bear to say - forever. At the “Name Me” station, enter information
in a computer
Build a Bear is child’s play compared to Build a Church. Church builders
have far more options.
What is the church exterior or shell to look like? Is there a favored style
of architecture? No, there’s not. What about the interior space? The directives
are minimal. Does the Assembly have to sit in straight rows? No. Does the altar
have to be opposite the front door? It has to be visibly central, but not
necessarily at one end or even on axis. Where do you put the Presider’s chair?
Whatever works. What about the Tabernacle? This is a hot-button issue. It must
be visible and well-sited for its purpose. That’s about all the directive says.
How about the baptismal font? That’s wide open. It doesn’t even have to be in
the church building per se. Where to put the pulpit? Be creative. Newport
liturgical designer Aide Berthume had a private audience with Pope John XXIII
during the Second Vatican Council. She asked what he thought a post-Vatican II
church should look like. His Holiness supposedly answered: “I’m the Pope. My job
is to issue the decrees. You’re the church designer. Your job is to create the
There are thousands of other options: the art work, the sacred vessels, the
vestments, the sound system, special-purpose areas, shrines, chapels, ambry for
the Holy Oils, sacristies, etc. You end up with a vast array of choices. Build a
Bear, you’ve been trumped.
There are, thankfully, some guidelines: the General Instruction of
the Roman Missal on an international level, “Built on Living Stones” on the
national level, and lots of opinions offered by experts.
Pray for those who build, not bears, but churches.
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