Sunday, November 16, 2008

Banking on Salvation




The Pilgrim's Union Church of God on Blake and Van Siclen in East New York looks plenty grand, but it doesn't quite look purpose-built as a church. There's a long (and increasing well-studied) history of storefront churches in Brooklyn (great photos here), and in recent years, many of New York's remaining movie palaces have been preserved through church ownership and operation, but I hadn't yet heard of a church occupying a bank. Still, a close inspection (poorly documented by a fuzzy photo above) revealed that this particular building began life as a bank, based on the window lettering that reads "banking hours 9-3." Insert a joke about well-insured deposits or a sage comment juxtaposing the worldly and eternal here.

I think there might have been some uproar had the shift from bank to church gone the other way (glaring metaphors for godless greed don't sit too well with lots of people), though there are some successful examples of deconsecrated churches serving new purposes out there. There's also a trend of holy places becoming hot spots, such as this Brooklyn wine bar and the notorious Limelight in Manhattan, which prompted my Nietzsche-loving buddy to remark "God is dead, and we are partying in his mausoleums."

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