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4 years ago  ::  May 17, 2010 - 3:03PM #1
Betty
Posts: 2

We have a dilema that is causing a rift in our small, rural  congregation.  We have an almost one room chapel that contains chairs, alter, cross etc.  We have been growing until recently and a lot of that has to do with being the 501c umbrella and our congregational participation with our community pantry and commodities.   The elders talked about and agreed on inviting groups to use our church for much needed community meetings for example such as AAA, NA or even tutoring.  The meetings would be in the same room with the cross and alter.  We felt that if people who do not come to church came in our doors for whatever the reason, they might feel more comfortable to come on a Sunday.  We also reasoned that if people see we are involved in helping the community some will come.  We had a neighborhood association use our church last Saturday and I saw people who had never crossed the doorstep in there with their hat respectfully in their lap. 


A small group on Sunday had a "holy" fit.  Only "Christians" can come in chapel area and they really do not like the idea of when we have the food pantry that we have to carry the food in and out of the room with the cross and alter. 


I personally think the church is a tool for spreading God's word, and the church is in each of us where ever we go.  Has any one here had this problem and how did you solve it?  We have to grow to have the money to build a fellowship hall, but we are stymied by this problem

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4 years ago  ::  May 18, 2010 - 9:43AM #2
CalKnox
Posts: 330

There is nothing "holy" about a building used for worship in our Presbyerian understanding of such things.  Buildings are just convenient places to assemble.  Actually, there are no altars in Presbyterian churches.  Altars are for offering sacrifice; Christ has already offered the once and for all final sacrifice in heaven.  We may have a table used for the Lord's Supper; but it is just a table when not in use.  Also, historiclly, Presbyterians would not display a cross in a place of worship as this came too close to idolatry.  The Bible never designates a cross as a religious symbol.  However, having such there should not preclude the building's use for something else.


So, our buildings are there to serve the congregation during public worship.  It is good if such facilities might be used for other good purposes when not in use for worship.  Of course, one would not want sinful activities going on at any time; but distributing food or helping people with addiction problems are not sinful activities.  And, if one can get unbelievers comfortable with the place where Christ's church meets for worship, that is great. It is far better for a church building to be seen as the "community center" where the church meets than as the church where we sometimes do community things. A church which worships their building, rather than putting it to the service of others, should die. It is not a church of Jesus Christ.

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4 years ago  ::  May 18, 2010 - 10:11AM #3
Betty
Posts: 2

Thank you, you have given me substantive ideas on how we base our approach to our problem.  You are right we do not have an alter, but a table for the Lord's Supper.  We do have crosses and more than one!


 


I appreciate you taking the time to answer.


 


 

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4 years ago  ::  May 18, 2010 - 11:06AM #4
CalKnox
Posts: 330

The Free Church of Scotland Continuing congregation in the DC area uses the building of a small PCUSA congregation, meeting in the afternoons. Because this building has a cross mounted on the wall, and the FCSC strictly adheres to the Regulative Principle of Worship (only permitting in worship what the Bible commands) and thus forbids crosses, they devised a system to drape the cross during the time of their use. A few in the congregation owning the building thought it strange these people covered the cross. However, to his credit, the PCUSA minister showed the members of his congregation from historical Presbyterian documents that this group was more consistent with their common history than they. So, shared use of the building has continued without a major problem.

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4 years ago  ::  Jun 21, 2010 - 7:44PM #5
DeweyCMH
Posts: 64

Betty, I can hardly think of a better use of the church building, when it is not being used for Sunday worship, than for it to be used to feed and provide other assistance to those in need in the community. And I offer you this opinion as someone who is both a Presbyterian pastor and an architect. :) 


 


In his answer to you, Cal mentioned the idea of idolatry. I don't want to put too sharp a stick on it, but I think that those who are upset at such a use for the church building are indeed engaging in a form of idolatry, and are illustrating that perhaps they do not grasp the full implications of the good news. I hope that a loving nudge will help them see that their thoughts, while maybe well-intentioned, are mistaken.

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4 years ago  ::  Jul 02, 2010 - 1:49PM #6
CalKnox
Posts: 330

I wouldn't hesitate to call building worship "idolatry;" but agree, one must deal with such error in a gentle and pastoral manner.

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3 years ago  ::  Dec 30, 2010 - 7:28PM #7
Livingvisionexperiment
Posts: 1

I've got an interesting chapter in my latest book about the history and evolution of church buildings (see The Way of Jesus: Re-Forming Spiritual Communities in a Post-Church Age, 2010, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Ch. 6). My contention is that our buildings have become the tails wagging the dog of the church. Buildings suck the majority of a congregation's resources - not just money but time. So much of what we argue about in our congregations is building related. I spoke at a congregation just this passed Sunday that owns no property. They meet in a local college chapel for 9 months a year practically for free and then meet on the beach along the shore of Lake Michigan during the summer months. This has freed up this congregation to use its resources for a huge ministry to ophaned kids in Ughanda. So many churches are having to close their doors due to financial hardship that I think it will only be a matter of time before congregations across denominational and even religious lines will pool their resources and share a single building, selling off the others. I believe this to be a tremendously positive eventuality. But certainly for those of us in more traditional congregations who aren't ready for such radical solutions, the very least we should be doing with our property is sharing it with as many well-intentioned, non-profit organizations as we can.

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3 years ago  ::  Dec 31, 2010 - 2:11PM #8
grampawombat
Posts: 269

Our congregation of 56 shares a building (originally intended to be the education wing) with a slightly larger Episcopal congregation. We also make it available for eight 12-step groups that meet weekly and an activist peace and justice oriented group that has their offices here. We also house about 30 homeless people for one week a year. Our sanctuary is a bit spartan, but it serves us well.

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