Building for the Neighborhood
Two religious realities are emerging in this time of Covid:
1. Faith communities are strengthening bonds between people. Through a new or renewed intentionality in practices of checking in, prayer and study, all without meeting in person, community life is deepening.
2. Faith communities are loosening their ties to buildings. “It’s the people not the building” is the old adage that is becoming truer for more communities, but with a twist now: There is a building, and it is in a place that called people once and may be calling again — a neighborhood, a city, a region; only this time around the people regard the building as a resource for the neighborhood, the city, the region.
What to do with these two realities?
First, give thanks. The heartbreak of this year is opening people to each other and to new expressions of community. Even in a divided America, there is still a yearning for the common good.
Second, make connections. Faith communities need partners to help them imagine where to go with the understanding that the building is a resource for the wider community. Religious properties can be repurposed for affordable housing, community health care clinics, food preparation and distribution, incubation of social enterprises, learning pods to support students in virtual education, and more. And faith communities need partners who can bring financial capital and development expertise to repurposing.
Third, think holistically. Map the religious assets and the resources of neighborhoods that contribute to an ecosystem that promotes justice, equity and sustainability. Measure success by the flourishing of the whole.
The doors of opportunity are opening. Let's move through them and create some traffic for the common good -- with courage and with gratitude.
Daniel Pryfogle is cofounder and CEO of Sympara.