Saturday, July 26, 2014

Photo Essay: Angelus Temple, A Theater for the Evangelized

If you've visited Echo Park Lake or even just driven through Echo Park...


Photo from USC Digital Library

...you've noticed this big building that curves along the corner of Glendale Avenue at Park Avenue, with the domed roof.



The radio towers may be gone, but Angelus Temple is unmistakable.



Built by Aimee Semple McPherson, one of LA's most famous and popular residents, it is the home of the Foursquare Church...



...and currently hosts The Church of the Dream Center.



It is a temple, with its stained glass windows and multiple services throughout the week...



...but it is also a theater...



...once decorated with a clouded blue sky mural painted ceiling...



...and dozens of backdrops...



...that set the stage for Sister Aimee's illustrated sermons...



...replete with props, actors, and sound effects, to drive her message home.



An evangelical minister and groundbreaking female pastor...



...Sister Aimee did not preach of fire and brimstone, but rather composed operas and recounted anecdotal stories from her own life to show the compassion of Jesus.



Angelus Temple once drew as many as 5000 attendees to its services, performances, and healing ceremonies, many of whom were sick, blind, crippled, or otherwise despondent.



People who listened to Sister Aimee's sermons on the radio also lined up to see her in person...



...despite scandal, tragedy, and her mysterious disappearance.



Across a breezeway...



...down in the basement...



...there is an archive of materials from Sister Aimee's past...



...including relics from the church...



...like old seats...



...and musical instruments...



...as well as various documentation...



...and clippings...



...from Sister Aimee's life and work...



...and the media coverage that followed.



Angelus Temple also houses a neighboring Hispanic temple...



...for Spanish-language services...



...and worship...



...all surrounding the principles of the Four Square Gospel.

Aimee believed that theatricality – including use of props – steeped in the telling of real life events was the best way to convey the Good Word to her followers, and Angelus Temple provided the perfect setting for that. In addition to her operas and sermons, it also hosted a school, a commissary to feed the needy during the Great Depression, and Aimee's own home, right next door.

Regardless of what you believe, Aimee established a religious spectacle that was not to be missed during her lifetime, and set a precedent for a style of evangelism that would carry on her legacy for years to come.

Next I guess I'll have to sit through a service there, to get the full experience.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: The Home of Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, Evangelist and Kidnapee
Photo Essay: The Art Deco Theater Inside Academy Cathedral, Inglewood