Some of the telltale signs of the so-called “religious recession” or the general decline in the zeal and enthusiasm of churchgoers worldwide are shrinking membership, dismal attendance in church gatherings, and diminishing monetary contributions—forcing many congregations to sell their worship buildings. This malady affects the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Denominations.
Source: Wall Street Journal
ARNHEM, Netherlands—Two Dozen scruffy skateboarders launched perilous jumps in a soaring old church building here on a recent night, watched over by a mosaic likeness of Jesus and a solemn array of stone saints.
This is Arnhem Skate Hall, an uneasy reincarnation of the Church of St. Joseph, which once rang with the prayers of nearly 1,000 worshipers.
It is one of hundreds of churches, closed or threatened by plunging membership, that pose a question for communities, and even governments, across Western Europe: What to do with once-holy, now-empty buildings that increasingly mark the countryside from Britain to Denmark?
[…] The closing of Europe’s churches reflects the rapid weakening of the faith in Europe, a phenomenon that is painful to both worshipers and the others who see religion as a unifying factor in a disparate society.
[…] The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade.
But it is in the Netherlands where the trend appears to be most advanced. The country’s Roman Catholic Church leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years.
[…] As communities struggle to reinvent their old churches, some solutions are less dignified than others. In Holland, one ex-church has become a supermarket, another is a florist, a third is a bookstore and a fourth is a gym. In Arnhem, a fashionable store called Humanoid occupies a church building dating to 1889, with racks of stylish women’s clothing arrayed under stained-glass windows.
In Bristol, England, the former St. Paul’s Church has become the Circomedia circus training school. Operators say the high ceilings are perfect for aerial equipment like trapezes.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, a Lutheran Church has become a Frankenstein-themed bar, featuring bubbling test tubes, lasers and life-size Frankenstein’s monster descending from the ceiling at midnight.
Jason MacDonald, a supervisor at the pub, says he has never heard complaints about the reuse. “It’s for one simple reason: There are hundreds and hundreds of old churches and no one to go to them,” Mr. MacDonald said. “If they weren’t repurposed they would just lie empty.”
Many churches, especially smaller ones, are becoming homes, and that has spawned an entire industry to connect would-be buyers with old churches.
The churches of England and Scotland list available properties online, with descriptions worthy of a realty firm. St. John’s Church in Bacup, England, for example, is said to feature “a lofty nave as well as basement rooms with stone-vaulted ceilings,” and can be has for about $160,000.