Thursday, October 27, 2005

Church to a --- health spa?

Also from the latest Economist (I think this might be in the free access portion on their website)

Ungodly use for churches and a second coming for old cinemas.

(Basically, with the huge decline in churchgoing in Britain, old churches are being converted into apartment blocks, pubs and health-spas. Congregations that are growing -- the immigrant urban charistmatic/Pentecostal churches, prefer to use old cinemas.)

Religion has long been in decline among Britain's middle classes. Since 1969, membership of the Church of England has fallen from 2.6m to 1.3m and 1,660 churches have closed to business. That represents 10% of the total stock. Rural churches are hard to find new uses for and so are generally either looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust or just left to rot. But churches in towns can be reincarnated. The most common new uses for an old church are as blocks of apartments and community centres, though some have found a more exotic destiny.


The Church of England isn't wild about this, though it acknowledges that even turning a church into a temple to vanity is probably preferable to knocking it down, which is what happens to a fifth of redundant buildings.


Some of the people who run the churches even think that the exotic architecture of the old cinemas helps to attract new recruits, and are prepared to spend a lot of money restoring them. “When a person comes in for the very first time, the looks of the church break the ice,” says Pastor Paul Hill of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Finsbury Park. The church has been busily restoring the cinema's intricate interior, which was designed to give the feel of sitting under the stars in a Spanish village. “When they realise the beauty of the building and its lack of connection with religion, they feel good about it,” says Mr Hill. Maybe even Larkin, a committed agnostic, would have been susceptible to the pull of such period-piece glamour.

Apropos the piece below. This seems to be the final step in the transformation from church to, well, cinema.

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