Space-sharing by congregations, installment 1

Who Shares Space?

An online forum contributing to a research project by Dr. Paul Numrich, professor in the Snowden Chair for the Study of Religion and Interreligious Relations

Space-sharing by congregations has become common in the United States in recent years. Consider these facts:

  • Half of the responding congregations in a large national study indicated that they share their buildings with at least one outside group, program, or event. [1] These would include other congregations, community groups, and social service agencies.
  • Many immigrant congregations use space in established churches. For instance, the majority of Korean Christian congregations in the US worship in non-Korean churches.
  • Churches with multicultural memberships often schedule group-specific activities, like worship services in various languages.
  • Some churches open their buildings to groups practicing other faiths.

You're invited to contribute to this forum by emailing Dr. Numrich and addressing these questions: Do you know of a congregation that shares space with another congregation or group, or schedules group-specific activities for its multicultural membership? What kinds of congregations or groups are involved in these space-sharing arrangements?

Selected contributions to this online forum will be posted and may be edited for content. (When responding, please indicate whether you prefer to be named or remain anonymous.) By contributing to this forum, you agree to these conditions.

The next installment of the Space-Sharing by Congregations online forum will consider the benefits of space-sharing.

Responses

Rev. Quentin Chin, a United Church of Christ pastor in Massachusetts:

Up until the end of 2016 I served as an intentional interim pastor. Thus, I have served several churches, two of them outside of the UCC.

  • The UCC church in Southampton had a half-day preschool program use its community space Monday through Friday. The preschool had no connection to the church other than as a renter.
  • The United Methodist Church of Lenox rented its Sunday School wing to a full-day preschool which had classes Monday through Friday. The school took three Sunday School classrooms and occasionally used the community space. The owner of the preschool was a member of the congregation.
  • The First Baptist Church of Pittsfield leased its basement to an academic program for single mothers. The moms brought their children to school. During the day the moms would study academic courses as well as receive parenting training. The church also rented space to the Berkshire Immigrant Center, an agency serving immigrants. I left at the beginning of 2013. Sometime later in 2013, the teen mom program left as did the immigrant center.
  • Other churches I’ve served had some rental agreements with AA or for one-event rentals.

Barb Anderson, Interfaith Outreach Facilitator at Dublin Community Church (United Church of Christ), Dublin, Ohio:

Our church houses a preschool and the Dublin Community Food Pantry. We have AA meetings nearly every day of the week, Indian (Hindu) dancers rent space weekly from us to practice, a community embroidery group rents space monthly from us, and occasionally civic groups use our space as well. A Cum Christo group (part of the Catholic Cursillo Movement) has begun meeting in our chapel, and we host an Interfaith/Ecumenical Thanks and Giving Service the week before Thanksgiving with Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist representatives giving thanks in their own traditions. Of course our own church groups meet, including WORD (Women of Religious Diversity) which has women of many Christian denominations as well as Muslim and Jewish women.

 

[1] Mark Chaves, Shawna Anderson, and Alison Eagle, National Congregations Study, cumulative data file and codebook (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, Department of Sociology, 2014).