A few fewer churches

My family went to church on Sunday mornings, and Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings, and on some holidays, and any other day Mom or Dad had a Jesus jones. Our vacations were in a tent, everybody into the station wagon, but even when we were camping, my parents always found a church on Sundays. Little-kid me would mutter under his little-kid breath, Jesus, even on vacation, always Jesus.

On one of those trips, when I was maybe ten, maybe 12, we went camping near Nowhere, Montana. When we drove into some small town for provisions, there was a church with boarded-up stained-glass windows and 2x4s barring the front door. It was closed, permanently — something I'd never seen before, and it boggled my brain. You never saw buildings that used to be churches, because churches never went out of business. Churches were forever.

Not any more, apparently.

In the news a week or so ago, it was reported that most Americans are no longer members of a church, synagogue or mosque. Maybe that's what I'm seeing in the mildly urban neighborhood where I live, where several churches have closed.

One is simply shuttered, and has been for years.

At another, the word 'Closed' was painted over the sign in front, and eventually that church was renovated into office space.

A third church stood vacant for a year, and then re-opened as "a celebration of the Chozen-ji tradition of Rinzai Zen," which seems to be sort of a religion but sure as hell ain't someplace my dad would park the station wagon and bring the kids on a vacation Sunday.

I'm writing all this because yesterday, on my daily walk around the neighborhood, I moseyed down a street where I rarely mosey, and saw that a church had been not merely closed but demolished. It had been a fairly large church, too. Now it's a pile of sticks and bricks.

Four churches down, within walking distance of my home (if I was willing to walk a few miles, which I'm not).

If you want to worship, there's still the Methodist church behind my apartment building, and the Unitarians a few blocks from here, and a Baptist outpost by the park, and the African Methodist Episcopals near the grocery store, and an unbranded but active church in the strip mall, and other churches a few blocks on either side of that strip mall — and that's just what I remember, from here in my chair at home.

Of course, God also speaks 24/7 on radio and TV, everywhere across this nation, so America certainly isn't Godless. It's still an endless smorgasbord of God. Too much God, if you ask me. If there's been a downtick in church membership and a few fewer churches, well, Jesus wept, but I won't.


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