University Village (U Village) is where I hung out as a child – it was small, cozy and outdoors – perfect for a small town girl, like my mom to shop. Plants, water, fresh air; you can look up and see blue sky and in case it rains, not only do they have umbrellas to borrow, all of the stores have covered entrances so you can easily walk from one store to the next and not get soaked. She was comfortable there; at the time it wasn’t too big or overwhelming. A side note – we moved to Seattle when I started kindergarten from a town with 200 – Seattle was the biggest place she or I had ever lived in! It was all very overwhelming and it took her six months to actually get off the escalator at the Bon Marche and venture into the racks of clothing. She would often say “it’s too much stimulus” and for me as a 6 year old, riding the escalator and elevator up and down was great fun.
Today, U Village is quite the place – very upscale with many boutique shops and rather than a mall it could be as Parija Bhatnagar from CNN refers to as a life style center. Life style centers are “…typically located near affluent residential neighborhoods, and feature fancy stores aimed at well-to-do consumers (2005). They don’t’ have the big anchor stores like Macys or Sears and they are built as open-air, lots of trees, plants and fountains with a mix of high end to fast food restaurants. Everything U Village has.
I don’t know if I would view U Village as a sacred space, but it is an enjoyable place to walk. Late morning to middle of the day, young mothers bring their children to play on the play scape located in the middle of the shopping area. You feel like you are in a friendly village-like place, people are happy, smiling sauntering along the breezeway. I am not a mall shopper – actually I am not even a store shopper and tend to buy online – but U Village is a great place to window shop and people watch and the specialty restaurants draw me in. You can sit in open air, enjoy the blue sky and watch people.
Bellevue Presbyterian Church (Bell Pres)
Bell Pres has a membership of 5,000 classifying it as a mega church. The have multiple, adult worship services in one of two locations. The space for modern worship is more like an original shopping mall – closed- in feeling, few windows and lights that can make the space very bright or not. It is pretty utilitarian – folding chairs, a platform for the band and a lectern on the ground level. There is nothing to attract people to this space other than the desire to worship via a rock band and listen to a great speaker – although he is videoed in during one time in the morning. Their offering is collected at the end of the worship time
The sanctuary though is very cathedral-like with lots of light, windows and skylights that you can look up and see blue sky. Large plants and trees are scattered around the worship space as well at the lobby area; nothing plastic or silk, all real symbolizing as Pahl suggests…” Life—abundant, even
eternal” (2007). Although no water is evident (Presbyterians are sprinklers so no big baptismal), just the worship space alone resembles a shopping mall. Bell Pres has unbelievable music is this space. Organ pipes dominate one wall and the call to worship is magnifying. The choir is highly trained and comparable to the Seattle Choral Group that accompanies the Seattle Symphony. Often there is a small orchestra that accompanies or plays on their own. You are drawn to worship as the music surround and envelops you. The speaker is top notch, encouraging and convincing giving you hope and things to consider throughout the week. And when the offering plate is passed, I gladly put my money in, feeling like I have had an experience that is really cheaper than going to the symphony or theater.
Unlike Pahl’s article, in this case, I don’t see the similarities between a shopping mall and a worship place. U Village is not the formal structure that Bell Pres is and I didn’t feel compiled “to be something”. But again, I am not a shopper and my experience may not be the same as someone else.
Bhatnager, Parija. “Not a mall, it’s a lifestyle center: Developers are embracing these
cozy, high-endurban centers in lieu of traditional big box formats”. CNN Money. 12
Jan 2005. Web. 2 May 2013.
Pahl, Jon. “The Desire to Acquire: Or, Why Shopping Malls are Sites of Religious
Violence”. Religion and Culture Web Forum. May 2007. Web. 2 May 2013.