by Robert Brow    (www.brow.on.ca)

Chapter 2 - Church Buildings

If a group of any kind is going to meet on a regular basis they need a building. In some places they could gather under a particular palm tree or forest. But not in the Canadian winter. The early Christians might meet in a house (Acts 12:12) or villa of one of the members (Acts 16:15, 40, Romans 16:5, 14, 15). In one place Paul rented a school (Acts 19:9). In Beroea the Jewish synagogue became a Christian gathering (Acts 17:10- 12).

In Rome Paul used his own hired house (Acts 28:23, 30). Later on there were Christians who met underground in the catacombs.

So there is no way to avoid using someone's home, or renting, or buying a building if a group of Christians want to gather on a regular basis. But even the best of buildings have problems. We can be frustrated by the location, acoustics, discomfort of the seating. A private home may get weary of the weekly invasion. Rents can go up till you have to move. Owned property may be the wrong size. So eventually some will think a move is necessary. Others say "Over my dead body." And it is only a matter of time before those whose advice is not taken feel it is time to quit. If they join up with another congregation, no harm is done. If they decide they have had enough, they may decide to quit church going for good.

What goes badly wrong in England is when a congregation decides that a building designed for Norman or Elizabethan times must be maintained as a monument at any price. In North America there are thousands of village congregations who put up with a inconvenient building with no washroom or Sunday school facilities because ancestors were buried around it. There is also the problem of a city church building whose tower has collapsed, and cracks indicate the foundations are shifting, but every member is driven to distraction trying to raise the money to restore it.

So in any congregation there will be conflicting ideas about the need for changes to an existing building and/or moving to another location.

When numbers are growing, especially in an area where young families are moving in to new homes, it is easy to propose a new building. The new members tend to be energetic, enthusiastic. Those who want the status quo are outvoted. The treasurer can't say there is no money.

The problem is acute when a congregation has already grown old, and younger people refuse to come. Often a decision is delayed because one or two large bequests put off the need for a decision. "The bills are paid, we don't need to change anything."

When the needed change proves to be too painful, those who are frustrated could move to another congregation. But in practice some get so hurt by the close or changes to the building that they loved that they quit church going altogether.

When a change becomes necessary, it may help if there has been discussion and time to get used to the idea. But eventually some will quit church going and never link up with any other congregation. In one congregation there was a fine devoted Christian woman who had always occupied a back pew. When it became possible to link up the main building with the Sunday School building, and include washrooms and a kitchen, that pew had to be removed to make room for stairs to the other level. The loss of her pew resulted in never coming to that building again. She was still loved, and she would bake for special events, but nothing could be done to change her mind. A congregation was able to grow in many new ways at the cost of losing one person.

Chapter 3 .....