by Chris Bodenner
To complement our post on deconsecrated churches now used for non-religious purposes, a reader sends the above photo and writes:
I was interested by McClay’s response because it was so different than my own. When I was a student, I studied for a semester in London. I lived with a British family in Muswell Hill, a northern part of the city probably most famous outside of London for being home to the Kinks. But one of the things I found there more memorable than anything else was a pub that had once been a church.
I am not a big drinker, but when the daughter of the family I was living with invited me to come with her mates to watch a football match (soccer), I couldn’t say no. Where the alter had been, a massive bar stood. Where pews of congregants had once played, now a roiling sea of football fans cheered and whooped and sobbed. And I found it to be a strangely fitting change, because what is a church for if not to take people’s minds from their worries, or to bring some measure of togetherness and joy to a life that can sometimes seem so cruel and so uncaring? I, an atheist, was brought together in this amazing bond that I have never once felt in a church before. The loud music might not be coming from the old organ, but it united everyone nevertheless. There is no other word I can use to describe this experience other than religious.
After I left England, I tried to watch soccer more, hoping for the same experience. It was never the same. Something about being in that place, with so many like-minded people, had somehow taken hold over me. The church in Muswell Hill might have lost its faith, but it had lost none of its potency.
Another points to a former church in Pittsburgh:
No discussion of re-purposing deconsecrated churches should ignore The Church Brew Works. It’s a place we go on every Pittsburgh trip, which are frequent because of family and other ties in the city. The renovation was done with the utmost respect for the history of both the structure and the neighborhood. Check out the History tab at the website. Along the back wall is a collection of photographs of prior clergy and sisters, and of events in the history of the parish. The pub operators know that their customers are the same people who were christened there, or whose parents were married there, or who remember that a grandparent’s funeral Mass was held there. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, I recommend a visit, and try the Pipe Organ Pale Ale.
Another shifts away from beer and spirits:
The Voorhees Computer Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York is inside of an old church (follow the link for pictures). It kind of freaked out my older brother when we did the campus tour but I thought it was perfect – an old way of seeing the world being replaced by the new. When I did the tour, there were still punch-card machines in some of the alcoves, but times continue to change. Actually the inside shots do not show the original columns and windows from the inside along with the vaulted ceilings. It is certainly a wonderful building from an architectural point of view.
Personally I would love to find an old church turned into a film house, where I always have the most transcendent experiences indoors.