You heard us correctly. And we’re not talking about sacramental wine. Turns out, churches are pretty expensive to maintain. In Britain, where the population is already getting less religious, churches are being transformed from places of worship to grounds for embodiment. And unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy about it.
But before you cry out “sacrilege!” let’s consider the pros of boozifying a place of worship. With a huge mass (pun intended) of churches to choose from, people can’t possibly use all of them, leaving many to go basically unoccupied. Economically, turning churches into bars makes sense. Take a Presbyterian church in north London’s upmarket Muswell Hill district. Still retaining its gorgeous Gothic features, the church is now an Irish pub.
Explains construction worker and customer John Earl, “If it was a church, there would be only two or three people here — but on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s packed.”
But not everyone is so enthralled at the newfound thread of commerce. Says Sophie Andreae, committee vice-chairwoman at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, “It’s deeply inappropriate and offensive for lots of Catholics.”
That may be so, but it hasn’t stopped The Church of England from knocking down almost 500 churches and de-consecrated/selling/renting out 1,000 more, all between the years 1969 and 2011. Which is better: leaving gorgeous architecture to stand unused, or employing these buildings for the glory of a Guinness?
Choosing the latter is like going through old belongings, deciding to cling onto mementos for the sake of them rather than their utility. We’ve all done it, but is it really a positive choice?
In America, with our (at least in writing) pronounced separation of Church & State, this seems like a non issue. There are several places that have gone from holy to raucous, or at least are religiously themed. Take the Vibiana, once a church, now a wedding hall; Or the The Abbey, which is one of the most successful gay bars in West Hollywood.
One thing is certain, regardless of where you stand on the issue, these bars are stunningly beautiful. If there’s one group of people who aren’t known to skimp on the decor, it’s the Christian devout. Date night at church, anyone?