The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Resurrection: finding new uses for old churches

What can you do when a parish closes and the church is all-but-abandoned?

Some novel solutions, in Albany:

music.JPGOld church buildings never die.

They’re just revived for other purposes, be it a new house of worship or an artists space.

That was the case Sunday as two formerly unused Catholic churches found new life: one as a fledgling Baptist church in Cohoes and the other as the site of an elaborate installed-art exhibit in Albany.


“It’s basically a day to open up,” a beaming Chris Yager, pastor of Cohoes’ Heritage Baptist Church, said Sunday morning as he welcomed congregants into the church’s shiny new foyer.

Until its closure earlier this year, this was the home of St. Rita’s Catholic Church.

It was closed as part of a consolidation by the Albany Diocese, responding to the kind of suburbanization and demographic changes that have challenged many Catholic dioceses in the Northeast.

Now, it’s the newest Sunday meeting place for about 140 of Yager’s congregation.

Across town on Albany’s Ten Broeck Street, the old St. Joseph’s Church, which saw its last service in 1993, has this week been turned into a venue for some of the region’s cutting-edge artists with the Flux art show.


Event organizers have turned the cavernous-but-decaying cathedral-like setting into a spot for installed art exhibits that exploit St. Joseph’s size and grandeur.

“I look for amazing alternative venues as often as I can,” said Samson Contompasis, whose 15-foot tent-like structure, Power, Lust, Emotion, Icon, is one of the exhibit’s centerpieces.

Read more: at this link.

Meantime, in other old church news: you can see what happened to the original cathedral for Los Angeles (it’s a fancy schmancy “event space”). And earlier this year, I posted on an interesting church conversion story in Texas, involving one of the stars of “The Waltons.”

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posted October 12, 2009 at 9:28 am

If William Randolf Hurst were still alive some of these old buildings or at least part of them would end up in California.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 12, 2009 at 8:30 pm

And more interesting uses to follow here as well, like this.
It is all very sad to see the urban churches coming apart. I say that as someone in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany who worships at one extremely large suburban parish and works at another large suburban parish.

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Church Mortgages

posted March 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Romeo Celleghin’s 63-year-old fresco at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lorain could be another casualty of Catholic diocese’s downsizing, and a great prospect for a music forum in it’s next life!

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