Sacred Spaces

The Vatican has had enough of ugly churches and is using the hierarchy to crack down on dull utilitarian churches. I’m not a big fan of ugly churches – and let’s be honest here – there are a lot more ugly Protestant churches than there are Catholic one. Protestantism owes this one to its more utilitarian impulses. Warehouse? Sure. Storefront? Sure. We’ll go wherever whenever to set up a church. This is a good instinct, and sometimes this is a necessary option. I do not imagine that even the Vatican would not insist on, say, gothic revival style in a country where Christianity is still outlawed, I think they would countenance house churches in situations like that. But what about when a church has the opportunity to purchase or construct its own space? Is it okay to slap the word “church” on the side of any old building that a church can afford to buy? The pragmatic answer here is that it doesn’t matter what kind of building God uses to grow the church and maybe a non-traditional one might be more appealing to those who do not have much experience in church. Actually, based on at least one study, precisely the opposite is true: people outside the church think they will find church in a pointy gothic building and are turned off by warehouse-style churches.

Another word needs to be said about this: in a city like Toronto there are many older church buildings already sitting around. Empty or half-empty, dead, dying, whatever, that a particular denomination or congregation wants to keep just the way it is. I have heard stories from church planters and the like about the difficulty of getting to use these old churches for new churches. The endgame for these underused churches is obvious, especially in condo-crazy Toronto, they get converted into lofts or other types of buildings. Those denominations and communities that own these types of buildings need to carefully consider what is the best use for their old buildings.