Too many church buildings?

March 7, 2008
By

With regard to the rebuilding of First Baptist Church in JP Center (JP Gazette, Feb. 22), I am in complete agreement with Jamaica Pond Association member John Iappini, who suggested “the community and the church might be better served if the church looks for another location and sells the property to a commercial or residential developer.”

The former Greater Faith Temple—although using rented rather than owned space—on Seaverns Avenue is a model for converting a dilapidated church space into modern, market-rate residences that provide additional tax revenue for the city.

There are too many church buildings in JP, several with small congregations. Often, these small congregations undertake unrealistic building restoration projects. Central Congregational Church on Seaverns Avenue, with a low weekly attendance like First Baptist, completed a renovation project a few years ago with a cost—paid from endowment funds and contributions—that was greatly out of proportion to the number of congregants served.

Too often, a misguided and self-serving sense of church history and loyalty to a physical structure, rather than to the greater spiritual atmosphere surrounding a congregation, take precedence. Combined with separatist theologies, the opportunity to merge smaller congregations either into one larger service or into separate services within a shared space is often thwarted. Central Congregational Church shares space with the Hispanic Community Church, which holds separate services on Sundays. It is this type of shared building use that maximizes infrastructure resources.

Perhaps First Baptist, which also offers use of its space to other smaller religious groups, could similarly seek to share space at Central Congregational or with another under-populated church building in the JP area. This would allow for market-rate development of its former location that would eliminate an ongoing eyesore as well as alleviate Mr. Iappini’s and others’ concern with First Baptist’s “financial and organizational ability to rebuild the church.”

Glenn Inghram
Jamaica Plain

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