In some ways, I suspect, having such a structure is off-putting to some people who are spiritually hungry but who are intimidated by large and even foreboding church buildings.
My congregation is doing its best to figure out how to make that building more hospitable. Indeed, we devoted a whole section of the new long-range visioning report I just helped to write to what we call radical hospitality.
Some other congregations, especially new ones, are finding they do better meeting not in church buildings at all but in such places as gymnasiums.
This Religion News Service report, written by a Mississippi journalist, describes the ways in which various congregations are drawing people in, partly because they meet in gyms, strip malls and warehouses.
There are good reasons to have churches, synagogues, mosques and temples housed in traditional buildings, but when those reasons get in the way of living out the faith of the various congregations that meet in them it's time to rethink what locations mean.
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THE DANGERS OF INCONSISTENCY
Quite a few times in recent months I've written about the ridiculous efforts in such states as Oklahoma to ban Shari'a, or Islamic law. Here, for instance. Now a writer in "First Things," which has a reputation for theological conservatism, suggests that it's hard to seem serious about religious liberty if, on the one hand, you're complaining that the Obama administration is waging a war on religion while, on the other hand, you're saying America should ban Shari'a. Bingo.
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P.S.: Speaking of the dangers of inconsistency, the Los Angeles Times takes note of the fact that before so many Republicans discovered new contraception rules are, in their view, a war on religion, many Republicans sponsored and signed into law exactly these kinds of contraception rules. Just a reminder: When you are a public servant you leave a public record, which can be compared to the public statements you're making now.