Unused Churches To Become Museums

I haven’t been posting much lately, and I probably won’t post today or tomorrow. I would like to post on the first chapter of The Way Of the (modern) World, but I’m not likely to get around to that until tomorrow or Thursday. I’ve still got to finish that book review that I didn’t write yesterday. Also, tomorrow evening I have to be at a lecture that philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff is giving at Regent, on Love and Justice. I have to record it for Regent Audio (and I may blog about it if I can stop worrying about the sound system long enough to pay attention).

In the meantime, here is something that I wrote for the April Fool’s 2007 edition of the Et Cetera, Regent’s weekly newspaper. It’s a satire on what is going on currently in the Episcopal Church, and I thought I’d let you read it before it becomes too dated. Enjoy!

Unused Churches to Become Museums

The Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) has recently decided that it will begin turning some of its older churches into museums.

This decision comes in light of conservative Episcopal churches splitting away from the ECUSA because of theological differences. Churches such as Truro Church and The Falls Church, both of Northern Virginia, have buildings and land whose worth is estimated at $25 million.

“That land belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia,” spokesperson James Hibblethorp said, “and we’re not going to let it go without a fight.”

But if they do manage to keep the land and the buildings, why does the ECUSA want to turn these churches into museums, rather than have them function as places of worship?

As the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA said in an interview last fall, membership is not what it used to be: “It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.”

Since being well-educated and not wanting to go forth or multiply is part of what it means to be an Episcopalian these days, turning historic churches into museums seems like the next logical step.

“If we’re able to win the fight and get these buildings and lands away from those who have broken away, we’ve got a nice collection of paintings that would fit quite nicely on the sides of the sanctuaries,” Hibblethorp said.

“If we kept them as places of worship, we would probably run into trouble on a couple of counts,” he continued. “First, not many people would be likely to attend. And those are some big sanctuaries that currently hold lots of people who would probably not be interested in attending anymore if the ECUSA won this battle.

“Second, if we continued to use them as places of worship, we would have to add minarets to the buildings and Japanese gardens with shrines on the grounds to be inclusive of people from other faith traditions. We’d likely run into a lot of construction costs if that happened.”

Much better, then, to take advantage of the strong architectural tradition of the Episcopal church by charging people money to enter churches and browse around.

But that’s not all: Hibblethorp also has plans to use the spaces for more than just marvels for visitors to ogle at.

“Churches are also great concert venues,” says Hibblethorp. “Even if there is no worship going on, people will still be able to enjoy some nice music that will hopefully get them in touch with the divine in a very general and non-exclusive way.

“Of course, many of the standard hymns and other works that have been played and sung throughout the centuries would be inappropriate to have in such a setting. But have you ever heard ‘We Are Family’ or ‘Over the Rainbow’ on a pipe organ?” Hibblethorp chuckles. “I’m a bit of a musician myself, and I’ve been working on an arrangement of Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit in the Sky’ that will give you goosebumps.”

Plans for using the ECUSA’s museum churches as dance clubs on weekend nights are also in the works. “You’ve never boogied until you’ve boogied in a church,” Hibblethorp notes.


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