On Sunday October 25, 2009 Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Greenpoint, Brooklyn celebrated its 110th anniversary. As this special occasion approached, the church’s pastor, Reverend Griffin Thomas, found himself in a position that many other pastors experience–he is the leader of a church with a steadily declining congregation. More troubling for Pastor Thomas, regular parishioners did not utilize the church building outside of Sunday services. What once served as a bustling center for English-speaking Lutherans appeared “like a tomb.” In light of the congregation’s minimal use of its sacred space and its dwindling numbers, Pastor Thomas decided to take an innovative approach. He advertised portions of the church as a “unique space” for rent on the popular website Craigslist. Pastor Thomas expected to draw the attention artists interested in the church’s loft as a private room for creativity; instead, he received a response from a rock band looking for a practice room. Pastor Thomas obliged. Now Lutheran Church of the Messiah serves as a practice space for two bands and a theater group, a venue for performances of all types, and a market-place for locally grown foods. Not only do these events give publicity to the church but they also bring in forms of income as their “renters” donate portions of their proceeds. Remarkably, Pastor Thomas and his congregation believe their support of the arts and local “secular” culture have enhanced the sacred and holy quality to their church’s space. For more on Pastor Thomas and Lutheran Church of the Messiah, see the New York Times articles here.
Sound and American Religions
By Isaac A. Weiner , University of North Carolina
(Vol. 4, July 2009)
Spatial Theory and the Study of Religion
By Kim Knott , University of Leeds
(Vol. 3, October 2008)