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And so happy Easter, 2012

April 8, 2012
Church entrance

In theory, parking would be very easy to find... (Orin O'Neill photos)

It’s been said regularly and often, a church is about community, not the building it happens to occupy. It is also often said that in America, the mall has replaced the town square as the place where people gather.

With that in mind, I give you this year’s Easter post.

The Church @ Bakerview

The Church @ Bakerview is located in a newer shopping center on Bakerview road. You can see how this place is new enough to sport the faux-Tuscan look popular in mall design at the moment.

An IHOP restaurant is only a few steps away, so post-service Sunday brunch can be enjoyed without moving your vehicle! The shopping center also has a martini bar, which is closed on Sunday mornings.

Christ the King Church

A short distance to the east is a much larger church in a much larger mall, Christ the King Community Church. While it lacks a steeple, the entrance is a bit more, what’s the word, elaborate?

CTK scooter parking

There’s lots of motorcycle parking. CTK has a motorcycle ministry. Whether or not the question What Would Jesus Ride is a subject of discussion or debate, I don’t know.

Parking lot

I also don’t know how large the congregation is, but I don’t imagine finding a place to park is problem, no matter what vehicle you happen to drive.

Grace church

Shopping centers aren’t necessarily exclusive to the fringes; the Grace Church is only a few blocks from downtown Bellingham. It shares the building with a sporting goods store, which occupies a space that used to house a grocery store.

Life church

Speaking of grocery stores, the Life Church on Marine Drive looks like it might have been a Thriftway. There used to be lots of those in Western Washington. The smokestack is not part of the building, however.

City of Refuge

Finally, this is the City of Refuge church in Burlington, which is about 30 miles south of Bellingham on I-5. I can’t quite picture Burlington as a city of refuge, but hey, that’s me. Of the churches profiled here, this one is unique.

City of Refuge

It’s in an AUTO MALL. Across the street from the Mitsubishi/Suzuki dealer, kitty-corner from the Subaru store. No, the church doesn’t hold drive-in services. I’m going to guess the rent is quite reasonable. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the building used to house a car dealership.

A topic trending upward in the business media at the moment is the decline and impending fall of big-box retail. Bellingham has a few such empty buildings, as do many other places in the U.S. Just how to repurpose those big boxes is a question that will be grappled with more and more as time goes on. Churches with growing congregations may provide one possible solution. Favicon

  1. April 8, 2012 6:00 am

    Jesus rides a Burgman.

  2. alanlarue permalink
    April 8, 2012 6:30 am

    Interesting! When I was a kid 10 or so families started a new church, and we rented out a downtown storefront in a small town. Those were the days when strip centers had replaced downtown areas. Your empty big box store idea makes sense. I’m thinking along the lines of our mall with the empty Montgomery Ward, Mervyn’s, and Service Merchandise spaces. (Not that I would want to attempt to start a new congregation myself!)

  3. Martha permalink
    April 8, 2012 7:12 am

    Love this post. And Easter greetings to you, too. In my home town in mid Illinois we would count the bars v churches. Always seemed to be neck and neck. Now they wipe out corners of corn fields to put up church barns while the little old churches rot away. All bars, however, stand firm.

  4. April 8, 2012 7:25 am

    Orin, my wife was Jewish, I was Catholic, and my daughter has recently affirmed that we are now practicing Culturalists. By this she means that we celebrate holidays like Passover, Easter, Chanukah and Christmas, but don’t subscribe to any of the associated hokus pokus.

    We’re big Bill Marr fans. He’s our high priest of sorts, though I’m sure he would refuse the job if we offered it.

    So with that disclaimer, we wish you a happy Easter too.

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