Partners’ approach to supporting congregations and denominational bodies as they consider transition is informed by what we have observed over 30-plus years:
- Older sacred places have a character and a soul that shape the life and values of congregations that occupy them, including their worship and music, their education and teaching, and their outreach to members and non-members alike.
- Older and historic houses of worship embody the histories of communities, congregations, families, and individuals.
- Most religious buildings represent decades (or even centuries) of investment, sacrifice, and service.
- Through their abiding presence, older and historic houses of worship add cultural value and architectural character to their communities.
- Religious buildings anchor communities, providing a sense of stability over time.
- Congregations that steward historic properties provide a significant and measurable public value1 to their communities through the ministries, programs, and activities that utilize their buildings and grounds.
- Older and historic properties are uniquely positioned to serve their communities by offering a diversity of space types and sizes that allow for activities from large, community-wide gatherings to smaller classes and workshops.
This perspective has helped motivate Partners to create this Guide, with the generous financial support of the 1772 Foundation. We know that congregations facing building change and transition must address a difficult set of questions and choices. Those questions encompass the future and legacy of a congregation, the treasured memories and experiences of its members, and the role of its ministries and programs in the lives of members and non-members. The good news is that congregations facing these issues are not alone. They can draw upon decades of experience, case studies, and research to shape those questions and make decisions regarding their futures and the fate of their buildings.
Partners’ hope is that this Guide will be helpful to your congregation or denominational office as it navigates new and challenging territory. We also hope that this Guide becomes a welcome reference for faith and civic leaders who are eager to have access to a resource that lays out a civic-minded approach to religious property – founded on the principle that older houses of worship have a public value and a meaningful presence in our communities. Lastly, please keep in mind that Partners is a living resource – always available to support congregations and judicatories as they steward their buildings and maximize their value. If you would like additional assistance beyond what this Guide offers, please reach out to us! We welcome the opportunity to serve our nation’s congregations and their communities.