It’s no surprise that when I saw the headline “The great tragedy of churches gone condo” in a recent Denver Post, I assumed the op-ed was about the Mile High City. Turns out, the churches and condos in question were in Washington, DC. Apparently the nation’s capital is also experiencing a rapidly changing landscape, where venerable buildings of the past are not long for this world. Pastor Duke Kwon describes an “aging but still impressive” brick church that’s on the verge of going condo. Sound familiar?
Amid the heated discussion in 2015 of the development at Mt. Gilead church at Cedar and Monaco, Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega expressed concern that the dearth of available land in Denver could make churches a target for purchase as they often sit on large lots. Prophetic indeed, as in the years since, I’ve noticed more and more churches going the way of the wrecking ball.
The case in DC is slightly different, as the buildings are being structurally maintained but repurposed for other uses. Kwon’s point of view is that a city needs these sanctuaries for when people are in need, something I heartily agree with. The same can be said for green spaces and parks.
In both the case of Kwon’s Grace Meridian Hill, the congregation that was housed in the church going condo, and of Mt. Gilead, the churches were thriving. They just weren’t as valuable as a new development — so they were incentivized to move out.
Kwon describes sacred spaces as “endangered species disappearing from our landscape.” Whether for theological reasons or otherwise, the loss of these spaces represent far more than the brick and mortar that once stood there.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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