Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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18 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay L eaders at First Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennesee, had a difficult decision to make. The congregation had existed on a downtown block for more than 200 years. It has had three sanctuaries on the site and the graveyard has tombs for signers of the United States Constitution. Numerically, the historic congregation was holding steady, but its most recent building was old and in decline. Should members invest in costly renovations so that the building could be used for 21st-century ministry? Or should the congregation move to a more modern space closer to where the members live? These questions are not unique to FPC Knoxville. As congregations change and traditional church buildings age, the question of what to do about buildings and property becomes paramount. At one end of the continuum, older congrega- tions wonder if they should continue allowing the building to provide a sanctuary for the members who had sustained it. At the other end, new church development leaders must decide whether to commit to bricks and mortar or continue renting space even though the weekly setup and cleanup can siphon off energy that could be used in other ways. There is no single right answer when it comes to making building choices. The best property for a con- gregation is one that helps them to follow God's call. Dr. Paul K. Hooker, associate dean for ministerial formation and advanced studies at Austin Theological Seminary, says that the first question to ask when thinking about buildings and property is "What is our mission?" The follow-up question is "How can our property help or hinder us with that mission?" "The mission of Christ is different from one place to another; so also is the need for, use of, and value of buildings and property. Over time, a community of God's people may well come to differing conclusions about the spaces in which it lives and works," Hooker said. "What any community must bear in mind is that a building or other property is almost always a gift from the community's The new mission field Creative ways to use your church property BY SUE WASHBURN BUZZ DURHAM

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