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Louie Crew
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018

Phone: 973-395-1068 h


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Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


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Re: I read this on the Internet today: (Episcopal Church building sold to Muslims)

  • Subject: Re: I read this on the Internet today: (Episcopal Church building sold to Muslims)
  • From: Louie Crew <>
  • Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2010 15:57:46 -0400

----- Original Message ----- 
> To: Louie Crew
> Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 3:05 AM
> Subject: I read this on the Internet today

> Dear Dr. Crew,
> I realize that there are deep divisions within the Anglican community
> but this seems almost incomprehensible to me. I was hoping that you
> would take a moment and explain to me sans the usual politic that
> pervades so many conversations by both sides on why a Christian
> organization would sell a church property that for generations held
> the joy and tears of so many Episcopalians as well as other Christians
> to an Islamic organization.
> How many Episcopalians and others were baptised, married,
> confirmed,ordained,eulogized in that building?
> I for the life of me cannot come up with a plausible answer that
> would justify this wound to the body of Christ. Can you?  I do
> appreciate your thoughtful answer.
> Just learned that the Diocese of CNY sold The Church of the Good
> Shepherd building to Muslims. Heard rumors before but today
> I passed by and saw that the doors were painted green. There was a
> crane there removing the cross from the bell-tower and hanging over
> the back door to the parking lot was the following sign "Islamic
> Awareness Center"
> Dr. Crew...I leave you with a music video that pictures the interior
> of that beautiful church. It was taken the same day that the eviction
> notice was served and is perhaps the last photo taken of the building.
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyFvyRZbsLI&feature=player_embedded
> Again thank you for your candor and may our Risen Lord be with
> you and your family this blessed Lenten season.
> Sincerely,

I agree that it is sad that a building that once clearly and beautifully
witnessed to the gospel was desconsecrated and closed -- all the more
poignantly sad that those who purchased and now use the building hold values
in many ways contrary to the original purpose of the building.

For example., St. Joseph's in Newark, once one of our lovely old churches,
has for about 20 years now been a fancy restaurant, called The Priory.  I
have not been there for many years, but whenever I have eaten there, I have
been accutely aware that the bar is next to where the altar used to be, and
the buffet tables line what used to be the south transcept.   The nave is
now two stories, with the upper one used for the community service center,
which uses income from the restaurant to fund some of its good work, but it
is a far cry from the center of worship that it was for generations of those
who built and sustained this place.    (See http://www.newcommunity.org/)

Nevertheless, I understand why the Catholic archdiocese deconsecrated the
building and sold it to the community center.   Much of the neighorhood had
become commercial and could no longer sustain parishes there.  The hierarchy
made tough decisions in order to funnel its limited resources to sustain
stronger ministry in fewer locations.

I do not know the instance you site for the Episcopal Diocese of  CNY but
would not condemn outright their decision to deconsecrate the church and
redirect the financial resources.

For certain, the building was no longer a church when CNY closed it.  In
each such case a service of deconsecration is held.  On most occasions, any
remnant of the congregation attends to honor those who built and sustained
the congregation and to grieve together with diocesan leaders during a final

I think it is much sadder for a tiny congregation to continue to use up
expensive resources for ever fewer and fewer people waiting until they all
die or waiting  until the money runs out before turning over to the diocese
an accumulated indebtedness.

Once a building has been deconsecrated, it is no longer a church regardless
of how much it may still look like one.  Once a church sells property on the
open market, the church has no say in how it is used, nor any responsibility
for how it is used.  (Though note that in the instance of The Priory, the
board of the community center  was organized with Catholic clergy still on
it, and the priest of the former parish is now the Monsignor and much
honored for his pioneering service in urban ministry.

When I lived in Wisconsin in the 1980s a lovely small Methodiist church was
deconsecrated and sold to a couple who used it for their private dwelling.
Their bedroom was in what had formerly been a most sacred space.  But any
sacredness that it enjoyed during their tenancy was connubial.  That was
certainly not what those who built the church had in mind for the space, but
there was nothing dishonorable about the developments that they could not
have foreseen.

On these matters, our Lord had it much easier than churches do with our fine
old property.   He had no place to lay his head and no vested interest in
real estate.

God's  kingdom is not of this world; nor should ours be.   While we should
respect consecrated property, we do not have to respect deconsecrated
property in the same way.   We should respect a Gideonized leanness even
more, so that we can be mobile and flexible to meet new opportunities to
take news genuinely good to people starving for it.

Thanks for pointing me to the lovely music and the lovely building.  I
enjoyed it immensely.  But the building was empty. Even the soloist was not
in view.

I hope the Christian remnant from that place is now holding onto a living
God in another congregation, not lost forever in its grief for the building.

I also hope we Christians and the Muslims will try to outdo one another in
doing good to the communities around us.  That kind of competition is
healthy, and the community may benefit from it.

Best wishes.


Louie Crew, 377 S. Harrison St., 12D, East Orange, NJ 07018 973-395-1068
http://queereye4lectionary.blogspot.com/  Queer Eye for the Lectionary

    We make his love too narrow
    By false limits of our own
    And we magnify his strictness
    With zeal he will not own.

         -- Frederick William Faber