Extended Use and Reuse of Churches

The use of churches is a controversial topic throughout Europe. Rapidly dimishing followers of established churches have led to a wide discussion of the role of their huge material, cultural and spiritual heritage.

Various dimensions can be noticed in European countries due to the arrangements between state and church, according to the financing models between parish churches and cathedrals, and regarding the role of various denomations in each country.

These questions have only recently been discussed in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church.

As a secretary of the first Finnish work group set to deal with this question by the Finnish Church Council, and due to my extended field work and knowledge of the European situation, it seems important to gather here some of my observations concerning the question.

Firstly, I consider the concept of the extended use of churches to include any churches that are going to or have preserved at least some features of the original use of the church. The minimal space of the Q1 at Bochum, Germany, the previous altar area, for the use of the original church members is worth mentioning here.

The concept of “church reuse”, on the other hand, should be understood as a way to refer to a totally new use of a previous church, like libraries, town centeres, housing, or even supermarkets.

Criteria for assessing a succesful extended use of a church can be presented. The set below is therefore a two-level subset of the concept “church reuse”.

  1. Real need for the change (esp. enhancing spiritual work in the parish)
  2. Qualified determination of the builder
  3. Succesful communication between the various interest groups
  4. Positive attitude to the changes by the people active in the parish
  5. Favourable attitude of people living in the parish area
  6. Positive or at least negotiation connection to the cultural heritage authorities
  7. Building inspection’s helpfulness and approval
  8. Reasonable financial arrangement
  9. Quality of the architectural work (incl. reversibility)
  10. Impeccability of the construction work
  11. Sufficient time to go through the above-mentioned processes
    (typically several years)
  12. Information about changes done with versatile program in the new premises