The Spiritual Value of Church Property

Craig in AlaskaBlog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


One of my first memories of coming to serve as your interim presbytery leader was the magnificent church buildings in the St. Louis metro area. It was and still is amazing to see the Presbyterian churches off of Delmar, going from Second Presbyterian Church, then Westminster, past Trinity, and ending at First Presbyterian. Seeing the Ladue Presbyterian campus, the majestic columns of Faith and Des Peres, and the stained glass windows of Kirkwood gives the impression that church is significant and important to the people in Giddings-Lovejoy.

The book, Spirit in the Cities: Searching for Soul in the Urban Landscape, is a collection of essays on life in the urban landscape of America. In one of the essays, “Tasting the Bitter with the Sweet”, Linda Marcadante writes about her struggle with coming home and leaving home in Newark, New Jersey. She writes about the role Sacred Heart Cathedral has in her current life and what the presence of that congregation meant for her community. She writes, “Set like a crown jewel at the head of Branch Brook Park, the Cathedral has two towers that rise ten stories, making it visible from far away. But although it is huge, it does not seem to dwarf human life, but to pick it up in an inclusive embrace toward God . . . For me, the glory of this architecture wordlessly preached sermons that I remember far beyond what I may have heard from the pulpit.”

Marcadante reminds us that there is more to a church building than bricks and mortar. Church buildings hold memories and presence, histories and dreams. Church buildings can lift our spirits beyond the words of a sermon. They can usher us into God’s presence.

In 2021 and beyond, there will probably be a lot of conversation around the role of church buildings in a post-COVID era. We have learned to worship, fellowship, and learn online. The role of the church buildings and the budgets needed to maintain and run the structures will come into question.

Also, for those congregations that will close their doors, their building will be monetized. What is the best use of those funds and how will those decisions be made?

As we have these difficult and necessary conversations in our session meetings, property committees, and finance rooms, let us keep in mind that the built environment can also bring glory to God. Let us remember that a church building can inspire a community by its presence. We are challenged to take into account the community asset that our buildings hold, even when we close and sell them. I can only begin the many elements this conversation has. I hope the presbytery can become a platform where these ideas can be discussed and advanced.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

4 Responses to “The Spiritual Value of Church Property”

  1. Carole Adams on

    As secretary at Oak Hill, I can’t name the number of times people call from the city or out of town looking for a church that has a sanctuary where they can get married. They are not always Presbyterians. They may have grown up in St. Louis, their parents may have been married at Oak Hill, or they attend worship services in buildings just that have rooms. I know some weddings are held outside, some in party halls, some are at “distant locations,” etc., but isn’t it nice to have a wedding in a sanctuary where, hopefully, they really feel like it is more than just a “party,” It’s a place where I hope they take their vows very seriously. It would be a shame not to have such a place. It’s also a place where they can be married by a pastor or minister (who has given them counseling before the wedding), not just by someone who has a certificate to marry anyone. I know getting married in a sanctuary isn’t guarantying to make the marriage last, or be a good marriage, but I hope those who do get married in a church really uphold the commitments they make to each other.

    Reply
    • Craig Howard on

      Carole,

      Great observation. Even when people do not claim a faith tradition, they often notice and “feel” something different while in holy space.

      Craig

      Reply
    • Craig Howarc on

      Lorenzo,
      Thank you for your years of service on COM and Congregational Vitality, getting at this issue. I have learned a lot from my time in Giddings-Lovejoy because of good stewards of the faith like you.

      Craig

      Reply

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