Assessing The Value of Churches and of the Church LifeMarch 19, 2015 by Reverend Gregory
Sometimes the land is worth more than the building. Some of the buildings are worth saving, if they can be split up properly to make enough profit for the developer. Hundreds of Catholic parishes and other former houses of worship are on the auction block in New York City’s hot real estate market, and many faithful wonder whether the value of churches should be for sale. Rents of $100,000 a year for three units in one old church defray the expenses of renovating the shell of the former Pentecostal church into residences.
She is regularly told that she’s “too pretty to be a nun.” Three separate sets of nuns she has visited in her quest to find her spiritual home have jokingly called her Angelina Jolie. Still, Angela (her name is half the reason for the popular nickname she frequently acquires) seeks the place where she will enter into her path toward becoming a nun in the Catholic Church.
Too Many Parishes, Not Enough Priests
The Cardinal of New York, Thomas Dolan, notes that the diocese cannot afford to continue to pay $40 million a year to maintain buildings. It is more than just money driving the downsizing of the church in the city, though. A lack of priests is becoming more critical as years pass and retirements continue with fewer new ordinations to fill the spaces.
Losing the Connection
Our Lady of Peace on New York’s east side was built in 1866 as Italian immigrants searched for a spiritual home where they felt accepted. The red brick facade of the cathedral is in a historical district, and will likely be protected in any event. The parish will merge with another in the program in the archdiocese called “Making All Things New.”
Meanwhile in Midtown
The five-year process of renovation of the venerable St. Patrick’s cathedral in Midtown Manhattan continues. Some $70 million of the estimated $180 million price tag for the complete job has been gathered together so far. The church says that payment for the renovation does not come from the sale of any other real estate.
An Interior Longing
A 27-year old former cosmetics worker felt a calling to serve God. The questions she has faced along the way about why someone so young and beautiful would give up worldly life for a consecrated existence within the convent have caused her to consider deep questions about herself, including:
- How do I appear before God?
- What do I see in the mirror?
- How does one question affect the other?
Living with a group of nuns in Illinois, she realized that the monastery has no mirrors. Shocked at first, she missed her habitual preening over her appearance as a former “cosmetics junkie.”
She soon came to realize she was liberated—finally free to be the person that God had made her to be, more in tune with the people around her. She found she could put energy she had once put into concern for her outward appearance into positive use in spiritual growth.
Yearning for Service and Simple Living
Church is not the bricks and wood that hold the roof overhead. While the ground and the house that has held worship services for generations may be sold, and the bells can fall silent as homes rise up to fill the spaces, the church is more than that.
It is in the community that comes to see its connections, of the people one to another, and all of them to all those around them, and to the Earth that is home to all, that is where the church truly dwells. For those who are called to serve, opportunities to build a ministry within the community are all around, waiting to be filled.This entry was posted in Online Ordination and tagged Bookmark the permalink.