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Update: Save Our Churches

Although I coiuld not attend the Save Our Churches event this past Saturday, I called organizer Tim Tielman to hear his thoughts about the progress being made. It is clear that this is just the start of a much-needed effort that will take a great deal of determination, money, and people to see it through. The fact that over 100 people attended this past weekend’s brainstorming session is surely a good sign. From Tim:
“Number one, we thought it was very successful as far as getting a jump on preserving the churches. Our preservation battles are fought early on… to do what we can to work with the diocese and other groups on how to handle the problem. To have the structures operating as churches is the ideal use. After that, selling off the churches piecemeal is not the answer. Buildings become abandoned… then people take them over without possessing the skills or the funds to maintain them. The buildings fall into disuse and the owners stop paying the taxes. The court then strikes the building to The City.
“Today The City owns over 10,000 properties… it’s an enormous challenge and an enormous opportunity at the same time. Yesterday I spoke out at The UB Amherst campus… that campus is a waking nightmare… it’s the polar opposite of everything I stand for. Even after fifty years of decline our city is still full of possibilities. UB Amherst… if you can’t compete with that garbage… it takes vision to see what can be done to restore our neighborhoods. Our building stock is incredible. If you own 10,000 properties, then you’re in control. We want to form a subsidiary Save Our Churches Organization that can work with The City, the diocese, and the new owners of the properties.
“We (over 100 people) broke up into five discussion groups after Saturday’s slide show. One of the groups focused on funding. We need reports on the status of all of the churches. We need business planning… that costs thousands of dollars. Some of these churches were already demolished, or are falling down because of the expenses attached to them. We have just begun exploring them. We are very interested in setting up an institution to secure these churches for future generations… whether they operate as a church or not. These are miniature convention centers for neighborhoods. Many of the churches were built even before the neighborhoods were built. They were used to attract development around them. We have the opportunity to do that again (in a restorative manner). We want to create a network of all of the struggling parish groups.
I think it would be fabulous to plan a great parade in support of the structures. We should celebrate what these churches stand for in a community. We need to fund this fulltime endeavor… this is not a part time effort… and we need to act now. If you want to help with save our churches, send an email to SaveOurChurches@aol.com. We’ve already had someone offer to create a field guide of the churches that are threatened (a direct result of the Saturday event). We need more of those types of people to step forward. We would like to be able to set up a building fund where people could dedicate money to saving the church of their choice. We’ll make sure that the money gets spent on securing the church that they request. We also want to find people who have moved away and might not know that their church is in jeopardy.”

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