Abandoned Church, Newington Bagpath

Bringing Life to Church Buildings

Church attendance is going down in the United States and elsewhere. Some churches are closing their doors, leaving their buildings uninhabited, their parishioners forced to find new houses of worship. Some churches and foundations are taking an active role in changing that trend and opening church doors.

Rev. Albert Hung is the Northern California district superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene. He was previously Lead Pastor of Trinity Church in Los Angeles and before taking up a calling in the church, was variously employed as an artist and TV host. When faced with dwindling attendance and churches closing, he insisted these buildings were holy and sought to maintain their use instead of treating them as assets to be sold off. This was the case in Santa Cruz where the First Church of Nazarene ceased operation after its pastor retired. The church building up to then had also been home to many community churches such as the Faith Community Church of Santa Cruz, a nondenominational church with several community ministries that would rent the First Church of Nazarene building for its gatherings. Andy Lewis of the Faith Community Church was able to arrange continued use of the facility with several other community partners to share the space on a continuing basis.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is another group taking action to preserve churches and keep their doors open with the January 16 announcement to grant an initial $4 million to 35 churches as part of its Preserving Black Churches grants. Each grant is between $50,000 and $200,000. Churches receiving grants include the First Immanuel Lutheran Church Chicago which hosted Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966; the Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in New York City formed in 1796, and which constructed their building in 1923, now a New York City landmark; and the Cory United Methodist Church in Cleveland, which began as a prayer group in 1875 and by 1946 had hundreds in its congregation and purchased a new building making it the largest Black church in Cleveland.

The Great Opportunity” is a report which says what to do about the number of church members being lost or never brought in, the first thing is to start more churches. The Church of Scientology and the leader of the religion David Miscavige opened a new church in Ventura right before the pandemic in February 2020 and has since announced three upcoming church openings in the Americas. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated a new temple on January 15 and President Russell M. Nelson announced another 18 new temples to be opened in Asia, Africa and the Americas.