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Oude Kerk, or old church, in Amsterdam, hosts the 2013 World Press Photo contest, among other arts events. The 800-year-old building is still home to a congregation. Some rights reserved by Joop Reuvecamp.

Keeping the church weird

When we imagine what a church can become, there is one thing that can be a great liability or a considerable asset: the church building itself. It can be difficult to know what to do with the stained glass and soaring ceilings, especially when a congregation needs a new mission and ministry.

I began to understand some of the complexities when I ate lunch with a real estate agent who specializes in selling historic properties in Austin, Texas. She had a passion for “keeping Austin weird,” which is shorthand for keeping the corporate franchises at bay while allowing the local arts and sense of history. When our conversation moved to contemplating the future of the church, I began to talk about buildings.

 

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