What do you do with a Church and no people?

Geriant Lewis for Newsweek

Newsweek International is running a story on the disposition of old churches. From the article:

For would-be clowns, there’s a circus school in the former St. Paul’s Church in Bristol, England. Madonna has performed in the Paradiso, a long-established church turned club in Amsterdam. Diners in Rome are happy to eat at the Sacro e Profano (Sacred and Profane), a popular downtown restaurant housed in a medieval church, and a major restoration project in Dublin saw the once-derelict St. Mary’s Church reborn as a high-end restaurant.

Newsweek also mentions St. Michael’s…

an imposing 12th-century church in the ancient center of Prague, [sold] to a private company that has used the building for private strip shows and techno parties.

As much as this practice of selling off beautiful old monuments to our faith makes my hackles rise, I have to step back and face the more significant problem. The churches aren’t being sold purely because of inflation, or a desire to move to more modern buildings. The reasoning is far more ominous:

Across much of the continent, churchgoing is in long-term decline … even in the Roman Catholic countries. In France less than 5 percent of Catholics regularly attends church on Sunday; in the Czech Republic it’s just 3 percent…. in a growing number of dioceses, dwindling congregations are forcing church authorities to choose whether to pay for the costly upkeep of an unused structure, demolish it or find an alternate purpose.

An epidemic of empty churches means one thing: an epidemic of lost people.

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