Urban sprawl is one of the main reasons that Buffalo churches need help. With the advent of McChurches, came the thinning out of the crowds of the city’s oldest churches. That, bundled with recent findings that Buffalo ranks at the bottom of the list of America’s Most Bible-Minded Cities.
Buffalo came away tied for fifth in the lowest rankings, published by the American Bible Society (see Time Magazine), which most likely equates to a lot of Buffalonians who are just not attending church these days (other than for weddings, social functions, concerts, etc.).
It’s yet another indicator that urban churches must do everything that they can in order to diversify – adding loft apartments, creating cultural hubs, etc… and I mean this for both practicing and non-practicing church structures.
In the end, Buffalonians have a love affair with religious structures, both inside and out.
Biking by First Presbyterian on Symphony Circle is a delight, but when was the last time that you attended a Sunday Service there? Same with all of the other glorious structures that dot our neighborhoods.
We’ve seen plenty of churches bite the dust too – just recently Saint Mary’s on The Hill. On the other hand, there was the recent good news about a buyer for Richmond Methodist Church. The church will most likely become a cultural hub on the West Side.
Other cities have expressed interest in stealing our churches – literally disassembling and then putting them back together (take a look at the America’s Most Bible Minded Cities and you will surely find a number of them that have large enough congregations to raise the money to pilfer religious architecture in other cities).
Buffalo is not going to join the ranks of bible-thumping cities. It’s not our destiny. Fortunately, we can start to be proactive when it comes to figuring out what the church-scape will be in years to come. Just think of Mass Mob – an ingenious way to reawaken the spirit of those who have (for whatever reason) stopped attending church services, and just needed a friendly nudge to get reinvigorated.
Until those holding the keys to the destinies of the churches decide what will, or will not, happen to the iconic structures, the only thing to do is pray that the stars are aligned for a mix of reuse, creative thinking and increased interest in whatever programming is offered.
While the Buffalo Religious Art Center (glorified graveyard for Buffalo’s church artifacts) is a blessing for the religious history that we have lost, there gets to be a point when the remaining houses of the holy should not have to undergo the process of being stripped, demoed and remembered within the walls of an entirely different church.