The Crystal Cathedral rises like a spaceship out of an impossibly green lawn in Garden Grove, Orange County, California. The structure is neither crystal nor, technically, a cathedral, but it’s acted as an archetype for a 20th century phenomenon: the Christian megachurch. From the church’s soaring, sunlit pulpit, the charismatic preacher Reverend Robert Schuller spoke to a sea of worshippers — not just to congregants in the cavernous room itself, his image amplified by a JumboTron, but also, eventually, to a much wider audience via the church’s iconic Hour of Power reality show. If Christianity exists to be spread, the Cathedral has existed to do that spreading. It’s been at once a place of worship and a TV studio.
The Crystal Cathedral has been in the news most recently for its financial troubles — culminating in bankruptcy, a controversial shift in the the church’s leadership structure, and, finally, the sale of the Cathedral itself to a neighboring (Catholic) diocese. Today, the church ministry announced that the congregation will be moving its services a smaller building, a currently Catholic church, a mile down the road from the Cathedral’s compound. In that, the Cathedral also seems symbolic of its times.
But if a church is a kind of technology — of media, of communication, of community — then it’s fitting that even a megachurch would have humble origins. And the origins of the Crystal Cathedral, for all its shine and swagger, are entirely humble.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]