Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Underground Churches A Future Possibility

The price of land in Korea is expensive but when the land is in Seoul City, dreaming of finding land on which to built a new parish seems an impossible dream--not like in the past. When a new parish is proposed, especially in areas where land values are high, the community is put to the test. The Peace Weekly reports what a parish community decided to do with a very small piece of land in Seoul City.

The new parish will have half the  space of the ordinary parish-- 240 pyong.  The community decided to build two floors below ground and 6 above. The church will be below ground, which makes it unusual; it was accepted by the community but not without difficulty: concerns about dampness and lack of natural lighting were the main complaints.

The sunken-engineering method was selected to complement the short-comings of having a church underground. This method allowed the underground space to be connected with the above-ground structure in a way that natural lighting and ventilation were harmoniously combined  so that the Church has the cozy, warm feeling of a typical church.  During the day there is no need for lights, no feeling that you are below ground, and no need for a heating system during the winter.

In most churches the catechetical rooms are in the basement; in this church they are on the  3rd and 4th floors.  Since most congregations have more women than men, this was taken into account when space was allotted for toilets--over 10 for the women so there will be no waiting before or after Mass. There is also a place to rest and to take care of  cosmetic needs, open not only to Christians but to anybody who cares to use the facilities. It's equipped with a system that uses rainwater so no one has to worry about the water bill. On the 4th floor is a place set aside for the elderly, which can also be used for prayer or conversation.  And a kitchen is open for all to use, Catholics and non-Catholics.

The pastor advises other priests, " When you're going to build a new church it helps to get rid of  fixed ideas of what a church should be--and be open to seeing other possibilities.  Even with a small piece of land it's always possible to think big and accomplish much."