Bricks and Mortals: A Facilitated Peer Learning Experience About Innovative Building Use

Event Date: May 5-6, 2017

Held at Andover Newton Theological School

Church buildings: For almost 400 years, they have served as sanctuaries and public markers of place, anchoring town squares across America and fostering the nation’s spiritual development. Perhaps because so many of our churches – especially in the Northeast – are historic, we admire them and hold them close. They not only help us feel connected to God, but also remind us of our spiritual ancestors.  We rightfully see our churches as beautiful, and significant, and important.

But they also may be old – and too big for a congregation’s current needs. Because so many New England churches were constructed long ago, in a different era – when worshiping congregations were larger and infrastructure wasn’t so expensive to maintain – we may find ourselves wondering whether/how they can serve contemporary spiritual needs.

In this 9-hour workshop, which took place at Andover Newton Theological School and was led by the Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, participants explored the following questions:
  • What are sacred sites for? To what extent are they real estate, and to what extent are they potter’s clay?  If they are both, how do we steward them?
  • What should we be doing with our beautiful, expensive buildings?
  • What are best practices for re-positioning them as the needs of ministry change?
  • What constitutes “deferred maintenance” – spiritually, organizationally, and materially?
  • Are our buildings assets, deficits, or both?