What to do with all the old churches?

Last weekend I visited the church of some friends. It was something I’ve been meaning to do for a while but then there got to be some urgency about the matter. Last Sunday was the congregation’s last in the building it has been in for decades. They’re closing the building and joining the cathedral’s congregation.

It is an all-too-familiar story these days for the Episcopal church. Buildings are old, there’s no money to pay for heat and maintenance, and the number of people showing up on Sunday just doesn’t justify a separate building.

I commented later that architecture schools need to start offering courses about remodeling old churches because there are going to be more and more on the market in coming years.

One of my friend is the priest of this congregation and she had to write the liturgy for the closing of the church. There are almost no liturgical resources on what to do in this situation. Maybe there should be.

All of this is tied up in the question of the future of the church that some people raised in response to a post of a mine a few weeks back. I don’t have a lot of clear ideas about what to do but I think a good first step is acknowledging the dreadful reality in which the church finds itself.

The Gospel reading a week from Sunday is from Mark 13: ‘As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”‘

Our churches are being thrown down as we speak.

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