The exterior and interior designs of church structures testify not only to economic standing and technological advances; they also witness to broader cultural changes and to the religious and social motivations of the builders. The disclosure of these motivations-and the meanings and values associated with the buildings themselves-is the subject of Kilde's study of nineteenth-century evangelical architecture. Of particular interest to her are the changing politics of space: statements of power, authority, and relationship (between God, clergy, and laity-and with "the world") made in stone, wood, and glass; the correlation of "sacred" and "secular" designs; and the reciprocal influences between the style or function of worship and the disposition of the space. Although Kilde's study progresses from the Federalist style at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to the Gothic revival at roughly mid century, and to the neomedieval auditorium at century's end, throughout she keeps an eye on the theater-style church and the (internal and external) dynamics that brought its increasing popularity. Particularly interesting was her treatment of buildings associated with revivalist Charles Grandison Finney as a case study on the emergence of the theater design from experiments in the early decades of the century. Helpful as well was her discussion of the ongoing evolution of the theater style as it adjusted to meet the needs of revivalism and of the family-oriented congregation.
Because of her multidisciplinary approach, Kilde's well-researched contribution will be valuable to scholars of architectural history, cultural studies, church history, and liturgical studies. But such a broad approach across fields sometimes results in an overgeneralization of specialist terminology. A liturgical scholar will find troubling the use of "cathedral" to mean a large building, false distinctions between "liturgical" and "non-liturgical," and reference throughout to the congregation as the "audience" even among evangelicals.