12/29/2008

Lockport Church Mergers

Posted by MJ

(Image - Transfiguration Church, Buffalo NY)

Back from the holiday break. I hope yours was as wonderful as mine was.

The LUSJ had the Lockport parish mergers as #3 of its 2008 top 10. I guess two issues emerge in my head during these church consolidations.

The first is the effect of forcing closures upon a parish, especially ones that show relative health and those that show a solid base of parishioners with the will and drive to be given an opportunity to build things back up. Upon various visits to churches on the east side of Buffalo I've met some of the most dedicated people I've ever met attempting to preserve not only structures but a history of the parishioners that came before them. The church would be better off helping these people, willing to give up their time and fight for a cause, to succeed instead of alienating them.

It would be nice to see the diocese itself give St. Mary's its own fate back with the growth they have shown instead of falling into "absolute" decision stances that have set the church back in the past. Why push aside 150 years of history? They are not running a gov't or corporation. There is no need for the church to become merger happy. Efforts would be better placed at keeping the church relevant in our society and our neighborhoods while keeping up with technology at connecting with people. Internet social sites, forums etc show the need for society to connect with each other is still there and largely suppressed in our day to day activities in faceless conglomo-land and household isolation.

The second is what to do with the buildings themselves. The image above is of the Church of the Transfiguration on Sycamore in Buffalo that was closed in 1993 and then subsequently sold. St Mathews on East Delavan is facing a similar slow death by decay after being sold to a smaller congregation that could not afford to upkeep it, then taken in foreclosure by the city of Buffalo and then sold at auction only to continue to sit there. St Gerrard's on Bailey is among others that are new to the ever growing list of magnificent old churches cast aside in the disposable society we have become. It appears that the diocese is still clueless on what to do with the ones in Lockport longer term too:

St. Joe’s has been retained as an oratory and citywide religious education
center. The disposition of the merged churches has not been decided. Nothing has
been sold, and St. Mary’s parish has been growing since the merger announcement
in 2007.

These structures are one-of-a-kind and unlikely to ever be constructed again. Just look at churches built in the last 30 years: is it a church? an office building? a store? If closure is the only option, the church needs to ensure these structures are able to be sold and reused in a capacity with minimal restrictions that allows them to be profitable in their new uses. Those who in the past put their heart and souls into building them in the past deserve nothing less.

I'll pre-emptively end my ranting here ;)


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