Elza Kuyk

Year of birth: 1965

Current position: Coordinator at the Remonstrant Seminary based at the Faculty of Theology, VU Amsterdam

Past positions: Staff member of the Arminius Institute, Centre for Remonstrant Theology Senior Policy Officer of the Dean and the Faculty Board, VU University, Amsterdam

Personal Profile:

I intend to investigate what people actually experience in church buildings: what the language of the building is and how the building is ‘read’. This involves the specific character of a particular church, representing a tradition, architectural intentions, the history of the church building in the local context, the iconic strength of a building in this respect, the present communities which use and care for the church building, and so on.

Knowing what people experience in church buildings nowadays is relevant as ownership of church buildings is rapidly changing, moving away from the faith communities that have often owned the buildings for decades. Church buildings attract more visitors because of new enterprises and events that take place. That means that the buildings have more public exposure. In current public debate, however, the character of the building as a religious building and/or as a building that evokes emotions is overlooked. The debate about the future of the many redundant church buildings in the Netherlands (as well in several other European countries) is extensive. This debate takes cultural, economic and many other perspectives into account , but tends to disregard any religious dimension, understood in a most open and broad sense.

The experiences will be investigated and analysed by employing a material approach. The physical appearance of a church building in its surroundings offers a direct entry point into the responses of those who pass by or enter a church building. These dynamics of people’s interactions with their environment, including the presence of historical church buildings, may well illustrate how religion in society works. I assume that this research, which will highlight actual experiences evoked by church buildings, will show that church buildings appear to play an increasing role in the public domain.

My study will be based on research on four historical city churches in the Netherlands: the Geertekerk (Utrecht), Oude Kerk (Amsterdam), Grote Kerk (Zwolle) and Sint Joriskerk (Amersfoort).

Recent scholarly papers/books:

  1. E. Kuyk. 2016. Tolerantie als ecclesiologische waarde. Een verkenning bij de remonstranten.
  2. E. Kuyk, Roger Jensen, et al. 2007. Religious Education in Europe. Situation and Current Trends in Schools. Oslo: IKO publishing house
  3. E. Kuyk, Jaap Doolaard (red.). 2006. “Geestelijk verzorgers in de jeugdzorg”. In Nieuw Handboek Geestelijke Verzorging, edited by Jaap Doolaard, pp. 120-129. Kampen: Kok.

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