A friend of mine realized that she only had one friend who went to
church. As someone who cares deeply about the church, she wondered why
it was. And so she began to ask them, “Why don’t you go to church?”
The answers startled her. It wasn’t what she was expecting at all.
The number one answer that she received was, “I can’t afford it.”
I just spent the last three hours trying not to cry my eyes out in
pastoral care class. The topic this week was funerals. I rightfully
anticipated a swell of emotions and prepared my heart accordingly. But
in class the conversation the stories drifted towards the death of
children, the most precarious moment of pastoral engagement.
From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Netherlands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protestant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).