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car-yard church?

car yard church

I have, for decades, gone past a cute little church building (the stone building on the left). It was sold. It is only a few blocks from a thriving parish church – so, makes sense.

I have seen church buildings turned into homes, cafes, and craft shops.

Week by week, I watched the new owners build a (concrete) “mirror” of the cute church building (on the right, in the picture above), and add the large building joining the two. I wondered what it would become. A funeral director’s one-stop place (service in church, refreshments in its mirror), a wedding one-stop place (same configuration)…? Nope. It’s for cars!

Why was I surprised? Is it me? Where are the edges of our spectrum for use of what was previously (obviously, in this case!) consecrated to worship? Cafe – fine. Home – fine. Lawyers offices? Massage parlour? Political party headquarters? Brothel? Pub? Video shop? Adult shop? Casino? Car sales yard? Shop selling party pills and legal highs?…

When we consecrate a building, in the case of our (now damaged) cathedral, the diocese held its ball in there; it was rented out (about $400) as a good space,… what do we mean by our words of consecrating a building? When the bishop deconsecrated it, and said it was now outside her jurisdiction, what was meant by that?

The bishop’s act of deconsecration focuses on the words

I do remit this building, and all objects remaining in it, for any lawful and reputable use, according to the laws of this land.

This building, having now been deconsecrated and secularized, I declare to be no longer subject to my canonical jurisdiction.

“Lawful and reputable” (my stress)? Are there edges between sacred and secular? Is it a spectrum? What do you think?

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6 Responses to car-yard church?

  1. This former United Free Methodist Church in Tunstall, Staffordshire, UK ( not far from where I grew up ) has been a garage since @ 1935 http://www.churches-uk-ireland.org/images/staffs/stoke/tunstall/umf.jpg and many former chapels and churches in the UK have been repurposed to homes.

    ( http://www.churches-uk-ireland.org/index.htm for more pictures of UK churches )

    I don’t know what I think of it really, I tend to think calling something ‘sacred’ or ‘church’ doesn’t make it so or any more noble than any other human endeavour: I’ve met car mechanics who were kinder than clergy!

    The sacred space for me happens around people, a building is just a building- an important symbol or piece of history or starting point for creating ministry or upholding spirituality- but to me many churches would be better held in humble tents than the money-grubbing self-agrandising monoliths they become, and their buildings turned over to actually serve people.

    I currently live in Houston Texas which has the largest churches in the US, which influences my opinion greatly.

    Eg. this popular US tv character in his repurposed sports stadium, his name in giant letters along the front http://ww2.joelosteen.com/Pages/Index.aspx
    He preaches that God makes faithful people wealthy and successful, people lap it up!

  2. Unfortunately this space was sold to a funeral directors (to continue a tradition of caring for the community) however it was then sold as their plans changed. The current owner built the main buildings, which is when the small congregation joined another meeting in one of the parishes little churches. It has however been a long period of letting go- of grieving, hopefully the original church will be strengthened and opened for the public once more.

    As a little church impinged upon by the grain mill and other semi-industrial buildings surrounding it, Hamish Hide has very sensitively maintained the buildings original character and place in the community.

    esp. with 3 other churches in the Rangiora parish and rising insurance costs- let alone the cost of strengthening to the current code. You never know one day it could be sold to another church community but for now business money has hopefully secured its future.

    unfortunately many churches must face similar choices, with much less time than that taken over St Marys Southbrook

    • Thanks, Hugh, for these details. You are right about the way the architecture was developed. I hope it was clear – I’m not specifically looking at, or wanting to comment on, this one example. Like you, I’m seeing this as a situation for many churches; and trying to think through to some general principles. Blessings.

  3. One of the problems we seem to face in this regard is the way in which the ‘sacred’ retreated to the church so to speak

    In England I was priest in two parishes. I had three buildings in my care. One a chapel of ease (built when a local landowner fell our with his Vicar :) ) – one relatively modern 1906, and one much older (1124 at least). The modern one emphasised ‘HOLY SPACE’ and in its very design seemed to make a clear divide. The much older building didn’t – until that is the Victorians (whom I personally blame for Everything including the slight itch in my nose at present :) ) – ‘pewed it to death’ – in the words of a bishop of my ken.

    Of old, the church building was multi purpose – the village fire cart was stored there – markets were held there. In my church, Oliver Cromwell even stabled his horses one night – and we had a mark on a column ‘where one of his troops let off a pistol’, but latterly i.e. in the Victorian era (I’m sure others were to blame . . . :) ) people for better or ill (I suspect the latter) cordoned off the Holy – thus leading to the so called ‘Sacred/Secular’ divide which this debate seems to epitomise

    Interestingly in England at least and mainly in rural churches, there is a move back – the village post office sets on a weekly basis in some so that local villagers can get their pensions – and there are other more far reaching changes. The buildings are once again being seen as for the whole community (although there are those who do NOT like this (church goers sadly – I’m not so sure how it would go down here where there seems to be more antipathy towards Christian faith, in my short experience)
    Anyway, ramble ramble :)

    As I told my church when we’d just spent a small fortune reroofing it in Lakeland slate – whatever else goes on here – to be a church it needs a worshipping community at its heart – if it has this and is secure in faith then it can open the door to all and sundry, indeed it might even go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in . . .

    Grace and Peace to you Bosco

    Eric

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Rev. Bosco Peters Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.