In her work as Bishop of Indianapolis, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows brings her expertise in architecture and historic preservation to bear. For her, the pandemic has forced questions shrinking congregations have long avoided. And that is a good thing.
In an interview with Faith & Leadership, she discusses the utilization, maintenance and disposal of church buildings. An excerpt:
JBB: … I’d say many of our church buildings are not best cared for by our own people. I’d rather see them be put in the hands of somebody else who can take care of it better — a different denomination, a different use — than to see what our churches do by letting them crumble around them because they can’t let them go. The demolition by neglect — that’s the train wreck.
We’re going to go over that cliff very quickly in the next five or six years, with the number of buildings that will not be able to be sustained by the congregations that have title to them.
F&L: Do you think the pandemic will hasten congregations’ going over the cliff?
JBB: Absolutely. The pandemic is an amplifier and accelerator, and it’s going to amplify and accelerate some of the trends that are troubling. But it can also amplify and accelerate some good things, so let’s try to get more in the driver’s seat on this.
Not all of the congregations are going to make it through this pandemic in the way that they were before. And that’s ultimately a hopeful thing for the church.
Because we’re finally asking the questions, “What is this congregation for? What is the building for now that we’re not in it?”
… I’d rather have a small diocese in terms of numbers of congregations that are really clear about who they are, why they exist, what their call to walk with Christ is about and what their building can do to help support that mission than to have 48 churches half of which don’t know why they’re there and their building is just empty most of the week.
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