Europe's Churches Are Being Closed
One could call it a "sign of the End Times", a world that no longer has the faith in God and religion as it once did. But the astounding number of churches that are being closed due to lack of use or drop of membership is nothing less than dramatic.
In England, the Church of England, closes 20 churches per year. In Denmark, 200 churches are underused and no longer are viable to those who own it, economically. In Germany, the Catholic Church has closes 515 churches in 10 years. But the worse is in the Netherlands. There, 75% of the 1600 churches will be closed by 2025, and in Holland, 700 of the Protestant churches will be shutdown in just four years!
There is a wave of secularism across the European continent generating a lack of belief and desire to attend church. Churches rely on members on attending and donating money to support them but the interest in doing so is dwindling. In Ireland, only 50% state they attend Sunday service, in Italy, it is 40%, In the Netherlands, 30%, in Britain, 20%. The numbers drop even further in Germany and France, just 10%, and in Denmark, a mere 5%.
Churches face what any business faces when customers don't come back: what to do about the property? Should they sell it? Allow other purposes (such as, concert halls, drama theater) and rent the building? Just holding onto an empty building is costly if it is not generating any income. Some are being turned into stores or offices. For example, St. Paul's Church in England is now a school for Circomedia training, another church, ironically, became a bar called, Frankenstein. A 19th century church in Amsterdam is now a clothing store and also there, the once grand St.Joseph Church in Arnhem, that once had 1000 members, is being used a skateboarder park.
While Europe's belief in God and religion is falling quickly, America's christian-based belief is growing as 5000 new churches were added between 2000-2010. The decline in membership in them dropped only 3%. But, experts state the fallout will be as bad as in Europe in another 20 years as the older generation dies out. America's younger generation are not as religious.
Some churches sell for as little as $160,000 on real estate firm websites. Maybe an old stone building is "holy" for your new home. But, the dilemma churches face is real. Take the St. Joseph Church in Arnhem. It needs $3.7 million dollars to maintain it, yet, the most it could sell for is $812,000. Not exactly a great deal for a buyer. The city is doing some maintenance for cosmetic and safety purposes because skateboarders are using it. But, for how long is the question. The owner of the property remains the Catholic church. As churches become vacant, cities and towns struggle as to what and how much to do to keep the historic landmark in good form. At some point, it all comes down to economics.
Economics or faith?