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“What if we just SOLD the church?”

“What if we just SOLD the church?”

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson took to Facebook looking for some provocative feedback:

So: fun idea that came out of meeting with church staff today (that will probably be the latest in line of things that will get me run out of town on a rail…) —

What if – rather than trying to scrape by and earn income from irregularly renting the church out to others – what if we just SOLD the church, rented it one day a week from the new owners, and took the huge infusion of cash to establish a large endowment that would support an increased capacity for ministry???

How do you like THEM apples?

The responses were interesting: people asked about potential buyers, many brought up legal points, some wondered what would prevent the building from being resold, or torn down. And yet, the overall response…was positive (and numerous):

Michael Smith: It’s intriguing, I must say.

Amanda Katherine Gott: I’m pretty sure there is a congregation in this Diocese (CT) that has done exactly that.

Jack Zamboni: Do you use the building for office, formation and/ or fellowship events during the week? Would the proposed sale limit opportunities to expand other possible ministry in the future? This creative idea may be exactly the right thing to do, but questions like these need to be considered.

Erik G Soldwedel: Jon kudos for offering a provocative thought process and challenging the status quo. Ministry is not mortar and brick. Bravo!!!

Dave Silverstone: I think it’s a very clever out-of-the-box idea that would enable a re-focusing on core values and projects. I’m sure there are ways that the parsonage/house space can be made usable for some ministry activities that don’t require the whole church building.

Christine Mackey-Mason: Your idea is very provocative and mind-shifting.

Pamela RW Kandt: I think it’s a brilliant, relevant idea. More churches could consider doing that.

Daniel Lawson: This just might be brilliant. Especially if you have the buyer lined up.

Deon K. Johnson: Brilliant! Creative! Exactly what so many churches should consider before they get too far down the “we’ve always done it this way” road. “Let the whole world see and know that things which have been cast down are being raised up…”

31 likes and 39 comments!

Jon was quick to point out that, for his community, this is more “out-of-the-box brainstorming” than reality. And yet, the idea of shedding a building weighing down a church community is something being realized in various places. Here was my response:

Kurt C. Wiesner: What I like about this Jon is that it’s not just a “what if we sold the church building because we cannot afford it” conversation: it takes your community’s unique situation and relationship with this school, and sees an opportunity. It’s not unlike what the St. James in Laconia NH did, selling their building and property to the regional Boys and Girls Club, and with the blessing of Bishop Hirschfeld. They have a new relationship with the Lutheran Church a mile up the street with a newer building. It’s definitely worth exploring!

The article on what actually happened with St. James can be found in New Hampshire Episcopal News.

So, what are your thoughts?


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I’m of two minds about this, and I come down on keeping the buildings. My reason is as follows: I am currently serving at a small parish in a city neighborhood, a parish that has been an anchor in a one-time distressed area of the city. The congregation decided to stay and fight to grow, which they have. Their presence was a major influence in the turn-around of the parish *and* the neighborhood. And I think that is important to remember: TEC churches are parishes, anchors of an entire neighborhood, even if the people of the parish may not be TEC members (yet). We talk so much about divesting our expensive buildings, but I hear nothing about “presence”, which speaks very loudly to a community. We need to remember that our buildings are part of our presence in urban areas.

Kevin McGrane

Nancy Davidge

At ECF Vital Practices ( several congregations share their stories related to their relationships with their buildings. For some, the decision comes after a period of deep discernment; for others, it is forced by an unexpected catastrophe. One of my favorite stories is from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Washington, MD: Their decision to move – and their choice of where to move, brought the opportunity to be part of a worshipping community to a group of people for whom that option had become difficult.

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