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Building plans for God’s house

Delicate business: Fr Tom Elich with the document And When Churches Are To Be Built.

Delicate business: Fr Tom Elich with the document And When Churches Are To Be Built.

By Paul Dobbyn

“A BASIC bible on any work done on Church buildings done in Australia” is how Liturgy Brisbane director Fr Tom Elich describes a new resource being launched at a Melbourne symposium on Church architecture.

Fr Elich, a member of the National Liturgical Architecture and Art Board, was on the drafting committee of the document And When Churches Are To Be Built.

“Renovating or building a church is a particularly delicate business,” he said.

“For a Christian community it’s their home.

“Here the community draws its life from the liturgy; it’s the liturgy which they celebrate week by week on Sundays; it’s the liturgy which articulates the special moments in their lives.

“Such a building takes on all the layers of the sacred, because this is the place where all their children have been baptised; this is the place from where their parents were buried; this is the place where they come to worship God week after week.”

Fr Elich said the document was purposely published without illustrations.

“The aim is to finish with a solution, not start with a solution … it’s not about shortcuts,” he said.

“The design of the building arises out of the various worship needs of the community.

“A good architect will look at these relationships and talk about how to respond in terms of the form and shape of the building.”

Similar documents exist in many countries around the world but And When Churches Are To Be Built is a first for Australia.

“It will be invaluable for the Australian Church to have an accessible reference document, which can be used by clergy, parish planning teams and architects,” Fr Elich said.

“It collects together many ideas and principles necessary not only for building new churches, but also for evaluating and renovating existing liturgical spaces.”

The document was to be launched at a symposium, God is in the detail: Making architecture and art for Catholic worship, being held on Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne campus from February 11 to 13.

The document is available from Liturgy Brisbane by contacting (07) 3336 9444 or by visiting

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