From sacred to secular .... fate of our buildings?

Carolla

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Interesting article from CBC today. Not news to most of us in churches, but interesting to note the widespread nature of church closings.
Canada to lose 9,000 churches in next decade, warns national heritage group | CBC News

copied from the article -
Pajot, who is always saddened when old buildings get torn down, says it's important to recognize how emotionally attached people are to their faith spaces and that conversations about the future must be handled with sensitivity.
A conversation, he suggests, every town and city in Canada should be having at the moment.
"It ends up being very gut-wrenching for the community," Pajot said of the realization that a church must be closed and either reduced to rubble or revitalized as something other than a place of worship.
"There is sometimes a mixture of shame ... embarrassment and anger. It's a real volatile cocktail mix of emotions that needs to be, very gently, worked through."


In my large urban city, there are currently 10 United Churches - too many concentrated in some areas, well spaced in others, most struggling financially, all renting space in their buildings to a variety of community groups. We've started to engage in facilitated group discussions about where we see the UC in our city 10 years down the road. It's a challenging discussion. Anybody else undertaking similar exercises?
 

Mendalla

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I'm seeing a lot of churches finding second lives. Stores, community agencies, schools (one of London's Montessoris is in a repurposed church), and so on. So a church ceasing to be a church need not mean it will be torn down, though reno is likely inevitable.

In my large urban city, there are currently 10 United Churches - too many concentrated in some areas,
Downtown London, Met and FSA are a block apart. There are some differences in theology and such but neither is running anywhere near capacity so does there really need to be two of them that close. Siloam and Arva just merged (Siloam being the one that's still standing) and they aren't even that close.

We've started to engage in facilitated group discussions about where we see the UC in our city 10 years down the road.
This is actually good to hear. Too many of these things seem to happen in a panic when someone runs out of money or something. A longterm plan, or at least an ongoing conversation about the issues involved. might actually make things easier in the end.
 

mgagnonlv

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It's good to have a plan. One of the main issues I see with Anglican and United Church congregations is that we leave local congregations do their own stuff as long as they have money in the bank, then we close them without any planning for the future. So for example in Montréal, we still have a large concentration of churches downtown and in the West Island (including some very close to each other), while we have closed almost all churches in the eastern half of the island.

It's also easier to recycle churches in a city, but it still costs lots of money, so we can't save them all. But in towns and villages, the problem is that nobody wants these buildings at any cost. One example I have in mind is the closing of Marie-Médiatrice Roman-Catholic Church in La Tuque. After lots of discussions, there finally was a project to tear down the church and build a senior's home and some average cost housing (i.e. cheap but not subsidized) on the premises. The Diocese sold the premises to the city for 1 $, then the city paid some 200 000 $ to demolish the church, then sold the ground for 1 $ to the developer of the project. Compare that to Montréal where a used church building can be sold from 500 000 $ to a few million dollars...

And in La Tuque, that church was the smallest of two churches in town, had no significant artistic or historical value, but would have cost far less to maintain than the other church (Saint-Zéphirin) which costs much more to run and will need 5 M$ in structural repairs in the next 5-10 years.

In other words, we need to plan wisely, both for the future of our Christian communities and for the financial well-being of our cities.
 

paradox3

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In my large urban city, there are currently 10 United Churches - too many concentrated in some areas, well spaced in others, most struggling financially, all renting space in their buildings to a variety of community groups. We've started to engage in facilitated group discussions about where we see the UC in our city 10 years down the road. It's a challenging discussion. Anybody else undertaking similar exercises?
There have been a few such efforts in the past but nothing right now, AFAIK.

Keep us posted about how the talks proceed, please.
 

Mendalla

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It's also easier to recycle churches in a city, but it still costs lots of money, so we can't save them all. But in towns and villages, the problem is that nobody wants these buildings at any cost. One example I have in mind is the closing of Marie-Médiatrice Roman-Catholic Church in La Tuque. After lots of discussions, there finally was a project to tear down the church and build a senior's home and some average cost housing (i.e. cheap but not subsidized) on the premises. The Diocese sold the premises to the city for 1 $, then the city paid some 200 000 $ to demolish the church, then sold the ground for 1 $ to the developer of the project. Compare that to Montréal where a used church building can be sold from 500 000 $ to a few million dollars...
In the end, sometimes the best use for the church building is to demo it and use the land for something else. Not every church building can be, or should be, saved. Historic ones (though that's sometimes hard to pin down, too), sure. But does every church building, even every nineteenth century church building, merit that kind of protection? Not unless a use can be found for that building. Having a building just sit there taking up real estate that could be used for something else isn't practical or ethical. If it is going to kept up, then there has to be a use for it, even if not its original, intended use.
 

paradox3

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Are the group discussions being facilitated by EDGE @Carolla ?

I have some experience with EDGE but just in the context of a single congregation.
 

paradox3

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Can't say I've been hugely enthusiastic about EDGE work.
Ditto. I found it formulaic when they facilitated a community round table discussion with our congregation & various agencies. It was an interesting process but it did not result in any concrete plans.

The facilitator really pushed hard for increased community service as the answer to all our problems. Just looking around a largely elderly congregation had me wondering who exactly was going to do all the work which would be involved.
 
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Carolla

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Yes - we have contracted facilitation through EDGE for the Mississauga Futures discussions. We've worked our way through a few, and now I think we've landed with a person with a good skill fit for our group. I've interacted with EDGE on many occasions and find that their facilitators vary widely in areas of expertise and backgrounds. Mostly I have been favourably impressed by them and found them helpful.

The Community Round Table is a formulaic model, in my experience anyway. It serves a purpose I think , if people can listen well to understand, and link with others to serve the community. We did not feel pushed to do more by the facilitator tho.
 

paradox3

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We did not feel pushed to do more by the facilitator tho.
We had a very skilled facilitator and she wasn't pushing for any particular course of action. It was more like there was an underlying assumption that increased community service would be the solution for us. She gave us many examples of things other congregations were doing . . . establishing community gardens and so on.

It was interesting to hear from the various community agencies but we never arrived at any concrete solutions. Lots of ideas but no plans.

We did a similar exercise in another congregation a few years ago but we did not use EDGE or the community round table approach. In that congregation folks went out to interview representatives from various agencies. We learned a great deal about the surrounding community but we got stuck at that point.

Working together as a group of congregations sounds like a promising venture. I hope you will let us know how it goes.
 

Luce NDs

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There is a rap that says ... rap is good for cheeze ... and perhaps we should make it as che 'z in old edifices!

Then on top of that eggs have again fallen back out of style ... perhaps to all the south beach Dei 't more key tones ...

What life is all about for the powers ... dissonance, Eris and more chaos ... with enough "fear" the troopers can be bifurcated ... divinely!

Allows for electrons, protons, neurons and morons --- Joseph's Myth ... golden tabs ... egi thou as thau done gone?

Insanity is highly prized ... just look all about Yah, Yin and Yan ... A'Jyn will do it ... decrypt nu's ...
 

chansen

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Some churches are beautiful and worth saving for their historical and aesthetic qualities. They are often a bitch to insulate so they are energy efficient. Old masonry structures were designed to leak lots of heat so the structural stone or brick did not freeze. Today, brick or stone is a veneer, so if it cracks, it's not a major problem. The structure is the stud, steel or concrete wall behind. Churches and communities have to prioritize which structures are most worth saving, and how much renovation is permitted.

You may recall I designed one of these renovations years ago. It was pretty cool, but it was expensive.
 

Carolla

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Old masonry structures were designed to leak lots of heat so the structural stone or brick did not freeze.
That's an interesting little "fact of the day!" That thought had not occured to me. I would have assumed it was just a different quality of available materials. My own house, now 93 years old, is a "double brick" construction - ie to layers of brick on the outside walls, separated by an airspace - which was the common insulation of the day I think.
 

Carolla

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@paradox3 - I'm curious to know what you mean when you use the word "solution" in reference to church explorations, community round tables, listening activities etc. Can you say more about that?

And yes - for sure, I'll keep posting about our Mississauga Futures adventure.
 

chansen

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That's an interesting little "fact of the day!" That thought had not occured to me. I would have assumed it was just a different quality of available materials. My own house, now 93 years old, is a "double brick" construction - ie to layers of brick on the outside walls, separated by an airspace - which was the common insulation of the day I think.
That's exactly it. Minimal as gap between the wythes of brick, partly to let water drain.

When you properly insulate a building like that from the inside, now the brick that never froze is freezing every winter, which can cause the brick to crack and spall (face of brick splits off).

There really isn't a good solution here, it may not happen, but don't be surprised if it does.
 

paradox3

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@paradox3 - I'm curious to know what you mean when you use the word "solution" in reference to church explorations, community round tables, listening activities etc. Can you say more about that?
"Foregone conclusion" might have been a better term than "solution". I thought there was an underlying assumption that churches need to be doing more outreach in order to fulfill their mission.

I don't know what discussion took place prior to the community round table event with EDGE.

But it seemed like a formulaic approach.
 

GeoFee

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Barbara, my companion, worked as a researcher in the field of nursing. She was brilliant at writing proposals for research grants. At the Big Red Church we met a member who developed and successfully ran an engineering firm. He and Barbara are now cooperating to discern priorities and obtain funding for a variety of health, safety and historic projects. This to offer a public space to our neighbourhood.
 

Luce NDs

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Was the edifice of the kirk once a gathering place of concern ... and now the concerned would rather scatter the public (once known as demos) ... as they don't like the rings scattering from other brute authorities ... lately becoming known as uncontrollable immigration ... as this revelation dawns ... apocalyptically?

A greater hulk as host doesn't like it ... thus the uneducated shell ... inert as in inertia to resist change as if it were nothing ...

Resolution: we are in our own swamp ... mostly manna kins? Wrai thy thoughts ... resemble wisps in the willows ...
 

Mendalla

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We saw a library in Quebec City that was built inside the shell of a church. Never found any info on the original church, but it was beautifully done.
 
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