The always thought-provoking Alan Rudnick asks what should become of the hundreds of churches that are closing all across the country. He writes:
Instead of closing or tearing down a church completely, is there another way?
A recent article from the Economist brought forward an idea that is growing. Since 1980, the Church of England has closed over 1,000 churches. That’s a lot of congregations and people. What can be done to reverse the trend? The idea goes something like this: keep the church building operating and functional, but repurposed the building so that services can be held while housing. The article sites some successful examples:
But there is a new mood in the Church of England… The plan is to turn the church into a community centre that will continue to hold religious services. This has worked elsewhere: Michaelhouse café in Cambridge… serves cappuccinos during the week but the building reverts to its original use as St Michael’s church on Sundays. In Hereford, Bath and York, working churches double as coffee shops, crèches and stores.
Could repurposing a church revive a church and help spawn new life through becoming a center for religious and cultural life? Doubling as a coffee shop and a church? Doubling as a library and a church? Doubling as a cultural center and a church? It is an exciting idea, but it is not a new one. Early church monastic communities featured gardens, centers of learning, and made money by selling goods that monks made.
But, how far could this concept go? Is it making a marketplace out of God’s house of worship or it is following where God is calling us to “be” the presence of Christ.