DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT
DO NOT COPY OR QUOTE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION
HISTORIC HOUSES OF WORSHIP IN PERIL:
RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS AND AMERICAN CULTURE
Thomas Edward Frank
University Professor
Wake Forest University
Preface
Why anyone writes a book about a seemingly intractable problem for which there
are no ready solutions can only be attributed to an irrational passion. Certainly that is so
in this case. Thousands of monumental houses of worship stand partially or wholly
vacant, for sale, or on the verge of demolition across the land, and hundreds of
communities struggle to find any feasible use for these imposing and symbolic structures.
All the economic and social reasons for this phenomenon have been adumbrated by
numerous authors and pundits: urban sprawl, rampant consumerism, the drift of
collective religious practices away from the cultural center, the astonishing explosion of
media and internet information, the decline in social activity and civic involvement in
many communities all have been put forward as forces that lie behind the vacating of
older religious buildings.
No one really knows how to mitigate this startling trend, and certainly no
individual or organization is in a position to address nationally the material problem of
what to do with a burgeoning number of empty or underutilized houses of worship. This
Next Page