Pesto fries, empanadas and brick oven pizza, washed down with a bottle of local Wisconsin beer. That’s what you get at the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church these days. The church, built in the 1880’s, housed a small congregation up until 2005. It was so small, they shared a community building with two other congregations for Sunday School and fellowship events. Finally, in 2005, they decided it was time to stretch out, and they vacated their old building and built a new one a few miles away.
The new owners of the old church turned it into a pizza joint. But the business didn’t last long. When it went under, a new owner came along and re-opened, this time as an upscale gourmet pizza restaurant and bar called Rustique. The building has been transformed, with some of the original elements retained, including polished wainscoting, ancient wood floors and pews to sit on at your table.
A few years ago, I met some of the members of St. Paul’s. They had just moved into their new building, and didn’t seem bothered at all that their old church was now a pizza parlor. I concluded that, if you have to abandon your building because your church is growing, it must not be upsetting to say good-bye.
But a waitress at Rustique told another tale: shortly after they opened four months ago, a member of St. Paul’s Church dropped in and claimed one of the pews. “This was my pew,” he said, as he carried it off.
“Now there’s nowhere for people to sit when they wait for their table,” the waitress shrugged.
I guess there was still someone who was clinging to the past–for 7 years!
It’s interesting how objects in a church seem to hold sacred value in people’s eyes, even when the context around those objects changes.
How would you feel if your church became a pizza parlor? What sacred objects would you claim as “yours”? And whose are they, really?
Check out Rustique Pizza here. The food is great, but the atmosphere is truly divine!