Taking church back to school

As a community blog, PiE invites you to submit guest blogs for us. We welcome Darren DeMelo as our very first guest blogger.

The church is being converted.

Five years ago on a business trip in Ohio, I came across an old church building that had been converted into a diving school. Yes, a diving school.

Forget about Sunday school, catechism, weddings and funerals. This architecture was made for learning how to pike, tuck and twist. The space is almost too perfect.

This amazing conversion isn’t unique.

For the church buildings that have lost their people, new groups of sinners and saints are filling their pews (actually, ripping them out). The Church Restaurant in Stratford is a classic example. This is a much expected, evolution of church and society. The Quebec Religious Heritage Council records an amazing 92 churches sold in 2014. Sold churches are being refashioned into mountain climbing gyms, office spaces, circus training facilities and anything else you can think of.

Heating and cooling costs, upkeep and repair make it impossible for dwindling congregations to keep their buildings and though high ceilings can inspire a larger-than-life worship, they can also be fitted to train big top performers.

This begs a few questions, doesn’t it?

What is the church to do? Dig deeper into it’s pockets to maintain proprietorship?
Does the church even need owned space?

With the buildings gone, what will happen to the gathered church? A scattering? A slow fade out?

A church building in my neighbourhood was erected in the 1970’s by a handful of families who remortgaged their homes to champion the build. Is this kind of dedication to the church lost?

This is forcing congregations to rent ‘secular’ spaces and to partner with other religious bodies. The gathered church is taking residence in community centres, movie theatres, homes, school cafeterias, etc. Does the visibility and presence of the church matter?

Is this creating a leaner, meaner church?

While there is much for the church to lament here, perhaps, there’s an opportunity for the church to re-learn it’s place in society.

Darren lives in Waterloo with Julie, Nora, Simon and a great host of friends. Through a variety of projects with WMB Church, Seven Shores Urban Cafe (and others) Darren loves to see people making big and little decisions for the Kingdom of God that is here and still coming.

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