Conversion experience

Triple KirksFellow Glasgow blogger Stephen draws my attention to this interesting article in the Herald which discusses the conversion of church buildings for other uses.

It highlights Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness and Cottier’s bar and venue in Glasgow, which I reckon are two excellent examples of using a building sensitively. The article also hints at the numerous converted churches in Aberdeen – Belmont Street alone boasts a handful that have become pubs.

I was actually thinking about this the other day in Aberdeen, where I showed the Hogmanaying St Silasites around bits of the city. We sheltered from the rain in Soul, a beautifully converted church (also featured in the article) on Union Street, and talked about the phenomenon of church-turned-pubs.

While one or two conversions have been quite tasteless, I am mostly in favour, for two reasons. Firstly, let’s face it, church attendance is declining, and the way churches are organised and accommodated is changing, especially in cities. This often means that beautiful, grand, old church buildings are no longer sustainable or practical, and surely it’s better that the architectural legacy is saved for some sort of popular purpose, rather than presenting a financial millstone for ageing, shrinking congregations – or even worse, just being left to crumble without an owner (like most of Triple Kirks, above).

And secondly, old church buildings make great venues for food or drink. They boast lovely windows and wooden finishes, high ceilings, ornate windows and architecture, and (usually) convenient city centre locations. They’re much more spacious, comfortable and atmospheric than most spit-and-sawdust, old-man pubs or bland, pretentious, trendy bars.

And as a Free Church spokesman rightly says at the end of the article, the church is the people not the building, therefore the building is not spiritual in itself even if its purpose once was.

So, converting churches: I’m converted. Any other views?

Or maybe you’re all too stunned that I agree with a Free Kirker on something…

One thought on “Conversion experience

  1. I agree that the Church is the body not the building, but what saddens me is what each conversion represents: a vanishing (or vanished) congregation that no longer fills that space with worship.

    I do wish that some of the livelier, growing (and often independent) churches could take over these buildings, rather than converting old warehouses as they often seem to do.

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