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Further Reading

From its invention in post-Civil War America, the Akron-Auditorium plan has been both lauded and lamented. Its components were created separately, however, and only came together in their hyphenated form during the 1880s. Here are some places to look for more information on any or all of these innovations:

The Auditorium

Reinvention of the church sanctuary as a genuine auditorium — that is, a place for hearing — was a consequence of the Second Great Awakening, the early 19th century’s religious revival manifest especially among Methodists and Baptists. By 1850, several charismatic ministers in major urban areas began to attract congregations in numbers far too large for traditional sanctuaries. Longitudinal, that is, traditional ritualistic plans favored by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians were limited in length and tended to dissociate congregation from the actual service. Happily, the post-Civil War era coincided with the development of acoustic science. Architects responded to this need with zeal by giving their clients — the so-called Princes of the Pulpit — auditoria that simultaneously increased seating and yet decreased the distance between the pulpit and the individual worshipper.

  • Jeanne Halogen Kilde, When Church Became Theatre (2002)

The Akron Plan

Before the Civil War, religious education was a haphazard affair, largely dependent on the teacher’s knowledge and ability. But following the Civil War, a more orderly and uniform method was adopted and first applied at Akron, Ohio — hence the name Akron Plan. Developed by Lewis Miller and Rev John Heyl Vincent, co-founders of the Chautauqua Movement in upstate New York, their delivery system involved three parts: 1) an opening exercise when the students were collectively introduced to the day’s topic, the Sermon on the Mount, for example; 2) separate graded lessons which explored the lesson in an age-appropriate way; and 3) a closing exercise conducted by the superintendent. At a national convention in 1872, it was adopted as the Uniform Lesson Plan. There was no facility suited to the Miller-Vincent system, so they worked with Akron architect Jacob Snyder to create the first Sunday school on modern lines.

The Akron-Auditorium or Combination Plan

The “Auditorium” church and “Akron” Sunday school developed independently during the 1870s, until someone realized what could be achieved by placing them adjacent to one another. The result was very clumsily called the “Akron-Auditorium Plan” or the “Combination Plan.” But over the years  the word “Auditorium” gradually slipped away and the melding of these two complementary architectural ideas came to be known popularly as the Akron Plan. It this point in their evolution it seems like swimming against the tide to return to the earlier terminology.

Suffice to say, there is quite a bit of literature (and opinion) available on the A-A or Combination Plan — as I habitually call it.


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