One of the trends in congregational life we have been following for a while is how communities of faith relate to buildings. We’ve watched as some congregations deal with the issues that come with aging structures and deferred maintenance. Other congregations have chosen to share their physical spaces with social enterprises or nonprofits, both to help offset their costs and to expand their mission reach. Other congregations have sold their buildings entirely, choosing to rent alternative spaces for worship and community life. Now, of course, the pandemic has brought new questions about our relationship to buildings and shared spaces.

In this week’s Weekly, we begin with an interview with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, who invites us to see our buildings as assets and not albatrosses. Mark King sounds a similar note, reminding us that buildings and land can help fund our ministries. Next, we return to the archive to hear from Nancy DeMott, Tim Shapiro and Brent Bill as they reflect on the ways that our buildings speak. Then, Tom Arthur asks pointedly, “Should we have a building or not?”.

You’ll also want to learn more about Mark Torgerson’s Alban book Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry.

Welcome to the Weekly. 

Congregations should see their buildings as assets and not albatrosses

Congregations should see their buildings as assets, not albatrosses

Talking about church buildings is fun for the bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis — not just because she is trained in architecture and historic preservation, but also because it leads to questions like, “What is this congregation for?”

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Using an oft-neglected asset to fund ministry

Mark King, the former executive pastor at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, says that there is one asset that nearly all churches possess — land, and it can be used advantageously to fund ministry.

Your Building Speaks

Your building speaks

The buildings housing our congregations communicate, say leaders from the Center for Congregations. Even if the people themselves are silent, whether in prayer or in doubt, the stones cannot be silent.

To have a church building or not?

When Pastor Tom Arthur was just one year out of seminary, he asked the advice of a more experienced pastor about a question we hear at Alban — should a congregation have a building or not? Read his letter — and then make sure and read his mentor’s response, too.

From the Alban Library

Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry: Congregations, Their Buildings, and Creation Care

by Mark A. Torgerson

Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry: Congregations, Their Buildings, and Creation Care

Greening Spaces for Worship and Ministry is a comprehensive guide that provides a rationale, strategies, and resources for fulfilling environmental stewardship through the land and buildings of Christian and Jewish congregations. New construction, renovation, and historic preservation projects are addressed. Site development, material choices, energy generation and consumption, water use, interior air quality, green cleaning programs, and beauty are discussed. Ten congregations from across the United States and Canada are featured as examples of excellence in creation care in and through their built environments. 

Before you go…

I’m hard pressed to think of a religious tradition that doesn’t mark the significance of certain physical spaces. It may be precisely because every tradition holds certain spaces sacred that the question of how we will relate to those spaces isn’t going away, even as our traditions adapt to changing realities.

I encourage you to share the articles in this week’s Weekly with your leadership teams as you engage questions about buildings in your context, and as always, let us know how you are answering those questions in your setting. We’re eager to learn from you. 

We’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, peace! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

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