Friday, November 20, 2015
A young dad in our Bridge St. congregation texted me the news about the purchase of a United Church building in a nearby town. An amalgamation of three congregations meant that a large and historic church structure was superfluous. These decisions are always tough and rather sad. It happens all the time though, but the newsworthy aspect of the story is that it was sold to become an Islamic centre. I texted back that I could hear stalwarts of the past whirring in their graves. That might not be fair. What do I know about their points of view on other religions?
There is often pushback against selling churches to be used by other religions. A Baptist church near my former community was sold through a third party to a Muslim congregation and is now a mosque. Some folk were very unhappy and there was some pathetic vandalism when it became an Islamic place of worship.
The reality is that more and more church structures are being sold off in many parts of the world. In Quebec 434 churches were "en mutation," awaiting transformation into something else. A chapel in a former Grey Nuns building in Montreal is now a Concordia University reading room. The majestic Erskine and American United Church is now Bourgie Hall, Why not? And why not convert (no pun intended) a church to a mosque rather than a condo complex, as is happening in nearby Kingston? The Queen St UC Kingston (above) project is 35 luxury condominiums.
In France there are thousands of near-empty churches which could be re-purposed as mosques, although there is resistance amongst elements of the very secular population. This will surely deepen in light of the horrendous killings in Paris this past weekend. But again, how can we begrudge people of faith using buildings to which our society has grown indifferent? http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2015-11/who-owns-france-s-churches
How would you feel if your church building became a mosque or a temple? Would you rather there be a faith-related purpose, even if it isn't your faith?