Sacred Places at Risk: New Evidence on How Endangered Older Churches and Synagogues Serve Communities

Cohen, Diane and A. Robert Jaeger. "Sacred Places at Risk: New Evidence on How Endangered Older Churches and Synagogues Serve Communities." Philadelphia, PA: Partners for Sacred Places, 1997.

This final report/press release of the national study by Partners for Sacred Places of the use of churches and synagogues for community services emphasized two main outcomes—the significance of the contribution of church facilities to community services and the financial needs of congregations for preservation and maintenance of these facilities. These findings equipped Partners with powerful support for their case for the importance of maintaining older sacred places. <p>The statistics, indicating the significance of the services provided, showed 91% of surveyed congregations opened their doors to the larger community. The congregations used their own facilities to host over three-quarters of services provided. In addition, they provided 5,300 hours of volunteer support (equal to two and one-half full time employees) and $140,000 a year in subsidies. The financial needs of the congregations for maintenance of their facilities were just as great. Twenty-five percent studied faced structural problems, while the average congregation needed $200,000 over the next several years to repair facilities. <p>Partners argued, that, while the needs were indeed great, the significance of the services provided, compounded by the initiative, flexibility, local awareness, and catalytic nature of congregations more than justified the increased financial cooperation and involvement of the government and philanthropic interests. Partners, therefore, called for a reduction of constraint against cooperation with congregations because of their inherent religiosity and an increase in congregational education for help already available.