Sunday, April 13, 2008

Church Closings

The Archdiocese of New Orleans has plans to shutter or merge a fair number of churches, some of which have dedicated communities and are financially sound. The reason, according to the Archdiocese, is the lack of available priests to pastor the parishes. Well, I think this plan is foolish, especially in the wake of Katrina when communities and neighborhoods need their Churches to cling to for spiritual comfort and a sense of community belonging.

I was particularly moved by a question posed by New Orleans community activist and blogger, Karen Gadbois, in a recent article published in the Times-Picayune. She asked:

"What happens to a neighborhood when your church is gone?"
I was struck by that question because it gets at the heart of why maintaining churches is all the more important following such a catastrophic and traumatic event like Katrina for neighborhoods and communities. It is so very true that churches are places where neighborhoods gather to mourn, celebrate, and find solace together. When I think about it this way, it is clear to me that the Archdiocese should be building more churches in communities instead of shuttering them. Places of worship aren't just of value when there's a priest always in residence. Many isolated and remote communities throughout the world have open churches that may get a visit by a priest once a month. But the church still fulfills an important social function nonetheless. Communities are bound more closely together and are enriched by having churches with a living history and a community legacy right in the neighborhood.

I understand the Archdiocese's rationale at one level, but shuttering churches to deal with a priest shortage is not the way to address the issue. There must be other ways than to inflict such an unnecessary spiritual wound on communities already wounded in other ways.

1 comment:

Schroeder said...

Like the planned closure of St. Augustine, this latest plan to close churches is on a par with the most stupifying political miscalculations made by blundering patriarchal authorities who are supposed to be leading us toward recovery in the post-Katrina era -- and I would guess it will be remembered as such for generations.

As with other challenging recovery issues, how about this: church officials who think there are problems actually visit parishes and define the problems, empowering parishioners to decide for themselves how they'd like to solve those problems. Of course, that would mean relinquishing some patriarchal control over people's lives, but would the ability to exercise some free will in the abiding example of Christ really be so offensive? If it is -- to church authorities -- can we really trust their earthly intentions?