Friday, October 25, 2013

Converted Churches

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a picture of a redesigned space that had once been a church.  She said, "I want to live in a converted church."

I wanted to write a poem that uses the word "converted" in all sorts of ways.  I wanted to tell her that she'd have a lot of work to do to get it into the fabulous shape shown in the picture.

Another friend wrote to say that there are 2 churches for sale in Dania Beach.  I thought, I know of one of them.

Every day on my way to work, I drive past a church building that's for sale. In many ways, it's an ideal location: in Dania Beach, on Highway 1, between Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood, just a few miles from the airport. It's an ideal location for a church, or for a church building that's reborn as something else.

Some might look at the building and think about opening a restaurant. Or maybe that's just what I think of because the first transformation of a church building that I'd ever seen was in downtown Charleston, SC, an Episcopal church that had been changed into a Mexican restaurant.

Some might think of the preschool possibilities. After all, many a church has already transformed itself to adapt to the preschool it feels it needs to run/host.

I return to my thoughts of a few weeks ago, thoughts that are never far from my mind. I think of artist studios and an exhibition space. I imagine running day or half day retreats. I envision a space that explores the intersections of spirituality and creativity. And we could do all sorts of creative work. There's room for gardens and fountains. I imagine there would be at least one kitchen.

I have a friend and colleague who suggests that I stop one day and pray as I walk the property. She says that God has already consecrated that space, and that when I assume that my dreams are not feasible, I'm selling God short.

She is right, of course. And yet, I still can't quite articulate that dream, on a day-to-day level. I can't quite visualize how we'd pay the bills.

And while I love the idea of the church as arts space, I'm not sure that I want to be the one to transform it. I want it to exist, but I'm not sure that I want to be the one that does that administrative work to keep it running.

I do love the Dania Beach area. I know it's been trying to recreate itself as an arts district. Once it was a thriving antiques district, so past experience would tell us that the location is viable.

I also wonder about a social justice piece. Could a church-turned-arts-center be helpful in terms of after-school activities? There are pockets of deep poverty that surround that building--how could the arts center church help that situation?

My husband dreams of an empire of rental houses that could be made into safe, snug, affordable places for people to live. I dream of old churches made into artistic spaces. Of what does God dream?

(If you read both of my blogs, you might be feeling like you've read this before.  I am reposting here, mainly because the Facebook post made me return to these thoughts)

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