Several months ago, I noticed that a small church in a sleepy Western NY town was up for sale. A few weeks ago I noticed that the "For Sale" sign was gone and what had been a tender little white chapel had been flipped.
It had not been made into a residential space or even yet another hair salon (even though one never can underestimate the need for a good salon in a rural community). The quaint little parish building had been refreshed, with new landscaping and the whole bit. The once weary but well loved building was dusted off and spiffed up, and now it was something altogether new.
The church, was now, an antique shop.
The CHURCH was now an ANTIQUE SHOP.
This statement concerning the flipped building did more than pop in my brain.
The statement poured out of my mouth and filled my ears.
"The CHURCH is an ANTIQUE SHOP!"
I know this may initially appear to be a simple observation of a real estate transaction. But to me the sale and re-purposed worship space smacked of discomfort.
I imagined that sanctuary, where sermons had been preached - anthems and hymns sung - people married, buried and baptized. How many communion tables had been set and served? How many lives started, were supported and secured in that space.
How can this space that had once been a place of community and faith become a place where old things are sold at a high price?
Antique shops in this particular neck of the woods are usually overpriced and geared for out-of-towners to spend discretionary cash - to collect what they find to be charming, pretty and quaint. This space that was local an common - and sacred - was not to become a place where discarded items find purpose; but at a price.
I'm not against the re-purposing of previously sacred spaces. I'm aware that worship and church life is not on the mainframe of most people's lives. I know that sometimes churches need to be sold and re-purposed as antiques shops.
However, the metaphor of a old church building being sold to be an antique shop to sell old things is not lost on me.
I wonder if we look closely if the old things that people purchase is symptomatic of our need for something that is beyond us- something ancient -something sacred.
It makes me wonder if the antique shop might want to reserve some space - for sanctuary.
Because no matter if you are going antiquing or if you are going to church - what you are searching for us exactly this... SANCTUARY.
At what price have we sacrificed sanctuary?
Where do you find sanctuary?
|Image found at: freelancepastor|