Beautiful Liberal Churches Become Virtual Museums

Juicy Ecumenism | 10/22/2019 | Jeffrey Walton
kims (Posted by) Level 3
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A friend recently pointed out to me that the National Fund for Sacred Places has announced ten grant recipients to receive a total of $1.9 million in repair and restoration funds.

Unsurprisingly, most (if not all) are left-wing activist churches that have smaller congregations in underutilized spaces.

Recipient - National - City - Christian - Church

One recipient is National City Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) just around the corner from IRD’s office in downtown Washington, D.C. National City was designed by John Russell Pope before the architect designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art.

“The sanctuary serves as a center for national, religious and social justice gatherings,” the announcement states. It is a remarkable space that recently hosted Sojourners’ Jim Wallis for the launch of his most recent book, featuring a conversation with Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Denomination - Membership - Attendance - Figures - Congregations

The denomination no longer makes membership and attendance figures for individual congregations freely available, but according to the Washington Post in 2011 there were only about 125 people attending on a Sunday, many of them retirees, which is shockingly few for a building that regularly held 800 in the 1950s and 1960s. The congregation has struggled, opting to redevelop some of its space for commercial purposes.

Some other awardees for the 2019-20 program year are:

Presbyterian - Church - Chicago - IL - Murals

Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL. “With murals by Frederic Clay Bartlett and windows by Tiffany Studios, Second Presbyterian hosts numerous hospitality services amidst a treasure trove of decorative arts,” the announcement notes. A quick glance at the Presbyterian Church (USA) congregational directory reveals an average Sunday attendance of 80. Not a single person was reported baptized in the last five years. “For many years, Second Presbyterian Church has offered same-sex marriage as part of our ministry to the church and the greater Chicagoland community. You and your partner will find an inclusive, warm fellowship of diverse spiritual...
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