Sometimes churches are faced with community changes beyond their control that make it impossible to continue as they are. In Milwaukee, the 1950’s through 70’s brought significant racial ethnic change to residential neighborhoods. Churches of German and Polish descent were ill-equipped to deal with the change, and several congregations either closed or re-located to the suburbs .
One church I interviewed languished when a new interstate highway literally cut their town in two. They finally sold the building and re-started as a new church development in a neighboring community.
And then there’s Our Lady of Lourdes in Chicago. In 1928, the city decided to widen their street. The building would have to be cut to fit its new footprint, or demolished. Instead, the congregation did the impossible: they moved the church building, all 9,000 tons of it! And they did it with 150 men and a bunch of horses.
Jesus said faith can move mountains. I guess it can move churches, too.
And here’s a happy footnote: the church is still alive! They are located at 4640 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago. Here’s what they say about themselves and their remarkable move on their website:
Though it was, and is, considered an architectural wonder, we would rather
think that we are well-known for our on going service to the Ravenswood-Uptown area…(This) area has always been a port of entry for the ever-changing populations. The congregation now reflects the diversity of the area including Spanish, Filipino and English speaking families sharing a rich blend of customs and liturgies.