Houses of Worship from Mosques to Synagogues, from Protestant to Catholic Churches, These Suburban Buildings Are Special Places Worthy of Praise

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Donovan Daily Herald Real Estate Writer

Some of the world's most inspirational architecture has been created in the name of religion.

That's true in the suburbs, too.

Thousands of churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship enrich the suburbs and bring joy and solace to the region's residents.

Many of them have won architectural awards. A few are international tourist attractions.

While we enjoy this beauty, the architecture is secondary. It's the messages and communication delivered inside them that count, of course.

To celebrate the new year and the spirit of understanding that Americans are striving for in this year of great tragedy, we decided to view a few of these special houses.

Christian Church

The Arlington Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was designed to emphasize the baptistery, pulpit and communion table, said the Rev. Steven Welker, pastor.

The layout of the sanctuary, built in 1969, does not focus on any of these important features at the expense of the others, he said.

The baptistery, where new members are baptized by immersion, the way Jesus was in the Jordan River, is in a brick tower with a curving half wall separating it from the rest of the church.

In the 1980s, Nancy and Jerry Windbigler, then members of the church, started making stained glass windows that are about 3 feet tall to cover the clerestory high up along one side and rear of the church.

Line drawings from the Good News Bible, which is in the pews of the church, were the inspiration for most of these windows that celebrate events in the New Testament.

Carol Atkins of Buffalo Grove continued the project with a rose and an angel playing a harp.

Her father-in-law, Herb Atkins of Arlington Heights, was a member of the committee that built the sanctuary.

"We probably had in mind a rectangular structure with a long center aisle," he said. "When we were talking with the architect, we said we wanted the baptistery to be a focal point, and eventually came up with some sort of circle."

Joe Barthel, of Arlington Heights, a charter member of the congregation and one of 283 current members, said "I feel very comfortable worshipping here."

Islamic Foundation

The mosque in Villa Park features a large prayer hall with two levels. Men pray on the first floor. The loft above offers a place where women can participate in the prayers without being visible to the men below.

The first thing a visitor notices is that there is almost no furniture in the hall. A small number of chairs are available for those physically incapable of standing and kneeling during prayers.

The faithful face toward the man leading the prayers. He is under a skylight in a V-shaped area formed of windows and gray marble that faces toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Written in the area in Arabic is "There's no God but Allah" and "Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah."

Similar sentiments are written elsewhere, including engravings on the glass doors that lead into the prayer hall.

Clocks are spotted here and there. Near the windows where the prayer leader stands is a special clock that marks the five times a day when Muslims pray. The timing of these sessions changes with the sun.

For example, morning prayer would be much earlier in the summer than in the winter. Now prayers are at about 6:10 a.m., 12:40 p.m., 3 p.m., 4:25 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Any Muslim man can lead prayers, said Abdul Hameed Dogar, director of the foundation. Muslims usually pray at home or at work.

On Fridays they come to the mosque for the noontime prayers. As many as 2,000 people come to Villa Park, so two times have been set for the midday prayers - noon and 1:10 p. …