Urban planners love to talk about creating community.  Churches like the one above do it.  But they’re disappearing.  Huh.

16 Responses to “Church”

  1. Patrick

    We need more small churches.

  2. Matt the Engineer

    There are plenty in the older neighborhoods. But then, like everything else, the big box model seems popular these days (I’m looking at you, Mars Hill). Drive in traffic, park in large crowded lots, pray in large faceless crowds.

    Or so I assume – as an atheist it’s really not my issue. I just use my neighborhood community center as a place to relate with neighbors.

  3. JoshMahar

    Matt is right on. Small neighborhood churches are a great community resource. So are small neighborhood bars, cafes, community centers, libraries, yoga groups, dodgeball clubs, neighborhood community councils, etc.

    We need to foster these places and make sure that our urban environment encourages there success.

  4. Dan

    Have you read “Bowling Alone”?

  5. Andy

    Religion is disappearing. These small churches should be converted into local community centers for everyone.

  6. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Reminds me of a quote from local religious thinker Jim Henderson: “For the white church community is trendy. For the black church it’s survival.” (He’s the guy that bought a soul on eBay and paid an atheist to rate churches. It’s fun stuff.)

    The neighborhood church has been very powerful in taking horrible situations like redlining and building community out of it, but personally I believe that model is just as broken as print newspapers. My neighbors are now as likely to be Ethiopian or South Asian as WASPs, and a lot of self-identifying religious people don’t even regularly attend services. (I didn’t for a while; who wants to sit in a stuffy room with old people listening to a poorly written speech?)

    The problem is, what to do about it? I agree that neighborhood “third places” are great, but I doubt has the connection to their local barista as to the church elder who taught them the stories growing up. There are experiments (not all of them new), but as Clay Shirky says about newspapers, it will probably be decades before we truly figure something out.

    Personally I’ve connected with other parents we met though a great birth preparation class, but we’re geographically spread all over the city.

  7. Scott

    Many churches in the Central Area are in flux, as they have been for decades. Many of the buildings are adorned with menorahs and stars of david, reflecting the erstwhile Jewish community there.

    These days, it seems like most members of this church aren’t from right around here. Maybe Sundays are a reunion of the old neighborhood. I know of another church in Columbia City that sold their building and moved south, closer to where their congregation lives.

    Consider Mars Hill, Mexican evangelicos, orthodox temples, or mosques that attract newly arrived north african neighbors — the picture is complex.

  8. Scott

    …and actually, as a neighbor, this church has a particularly checkered reputation. Consider the duplex they own across 25th…

  9. Keith

    quick question about community centers: has anyone here ever been to one? i used to spend a little time in one during the summer about twenty years ago; i guess it was technically a recreation center, as it was mainly a basketball court and a game room. there were community rooms off to the side, but they were generally populated by us kids and our art projects, rather than adults partaking in community endeavors.

    i ask b/c i’m all for secular gathering spaces, but i wonder to what degree they might be utilized. a church at least exists for a stated purpose: the worship of a *specific* god. but a community center is, in my mind, a sort of flexible space that seems like it would go unused most of the time. am i way off track?

  10. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    That’s a fair question, Keith. I’ve been to a couple planning meetings at the SLU Armory and UHCC, and judging by flyers most users probably hope to have their own space someday (i.e., yoga groups, alternative school, Korean church, etc.) That seems fine to me, though, if the space is flexible enough and fairly often in use.

    Also, full disclosure: right now I’m part of a church group working in SLU to build geographic community including people of various backgrounds. To be honest, so far we’re mostly half-baked ideas plus a few service projects, though.

  11. Matt the Engineer

    [Keith] It depends on the community center. I grew up in the suburbs in California and our community center seemed to be used for retirement bingo night and… well that’s about it.

    My local community center on Queen Anne seems mostly focused toward children, although there’s a gym and basketball court for general use. I’ve been using it recently for a baby play class with my son, and have met many other parents there. Sadly, it’s closed in the summer!

    The absolute best community center I’ve seen is the Good Shepard building in Wallingford. Once a home for troubled girls, this beautiful old building is packed with different organizations providing community services. They have Seattle Tilth – the organic gardening teaching group, along with a great yoga studio, several schools, and plenty of other neighborhood groups.

  12. dan cortland

    The Phinney Neighborhood Center seems likewise heavily used, as does the Miller Community Center.

  13. Keith

    thanks for the responses. the good shepard building does look great and it seems to incorporate what jdf wrote about groups looking for their “own” space. it seems that if the building truly has mixed uses, both resident and temporary, then it probably could thrive. so maybe that’s an answer to the (disappearing) church issue.

    as for closing during the summer: [matt] it seems really strange that a center serving children wouldn’t be open then; what’s the rationale behind closing it when kids are running the streets?

  14. Matt the Engineer

    It looks like I was misinformed. It looks like it’s closed on the weekends, not the summer.

  15. Dan Staley

    Urban planners love to talk about creating community. Churches like the one above do it. But they’re disappearing. Huh.

    I can assure you they are absolutely not disappearing on the Colo Front Range. And our recent trip to the Ozarks found them to be a dime a dozen.

  16. dan cortland

    tincadenza: vote for Susan Hutchison and maybe she’ll make sure the Discovery Institute has a branch in every community center. If that’ll make you feel better.

    Our region’s is the least church-going population in the country, praise be to God.

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