Sacred Buildings: First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

The sanctuary surfaced like a small whale as I strolled over concrete memory slabs up the New Haven hill. Each tile marks a historical path-maker; although, the middle ages are omitted.

Eventually, I entered through a side-door; a clairvoyant interior peered at me. The coloured glass windows, held in place with spindled concrete, broke the light as the ‘roof’ rushed upward. The architects dreamed in modernistic Gothic; yet, had no Gothic theological ambition.

Many a Gothic, Gothic revivalist or neo-Gothic edifice’s stain-glassed windows profess hierarchical theology: stained-glass reserved for the ethereal. This structure, however, democratises the bent clear light into colour. The coloured glass plants and rises from the congregants’ feet bending into an inverted oculus encouraging them to look through the looking glass towards the outside. And what, you may ask, colours the aggregated gaze of the church folk gathered for Sunday service?

Two massive and abstract mosaics hug those enclosed in the arch: to the West Christ’s crucifixion and to the East Christ’s resurrection. I stood between death and new life not sure if I was looking inwards or outwards, but sure I was somewhere the ancients called holy.

Author Details

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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