In the wake of declining numbers, some churches are becoming community arts centers, renting space out to nonprofits during the week. In Los Angeles, the Pico-Union Project provides a home for multiple congregations — Jewish, Christian and Muslim — that couldn’t sustain a building on their own. It’s housed in the original Sinai Temple, which served as a Presbyterian church for 88 years.
Nathan Marion, who helps churches redefine their spaces in Seattle, says that such arrangements align with the mission of churches, helping them survive despite falling numbers, and meet a need among the un-churched. “Having a place where people can connect and be in a community where they feel welcome and as safe as possible in a public event, I think that’s really important, and it’s missing in a lot of people’s lives,” he told Religion Dispatches.
In dorm-like convents, other groups can move in. I lived in a former convent after college with 11 other recent graduates (both women and men) as a part of a full-time volunteer program.