A new age for houses of worship.


Byline: Dan Heilman

Organized religion in the United States is on the wane. A recent Gallup poll showed that public confidence in religious institutions is at a record low of 36 percent not even half of what it was 40 years ago.

Worship leaders in the Twin Cities are not sitting back waiting for the inevitable. In fact, a construction boomlet in the worship sector is leading to a wave of new and refurbished structures that do far more than offer a place to pray and sing once a week.

"You're pointing to a new trend," said Dan Collison, lead pastor at First Covenant Church and part of the Downtown Interfaith Clergy Network.

"At a time when religion is in decline, especially larger Christian denominations, leaders and churches that own property in more dense environments are seeking to be more entrepreneurial," he said. "Be more generous and engaged in areas that are truly relevant in people's lives. That's a positive trend."

A scan of recent and current worship-space projects seems to indicate a sector willing to adapt in order to stay strong:

Temple Israel in south Minneapolis recently finished a $21.1 million remodel and expansion project, tearing down an under-functioning building and replacing it with spaces for education and families.

Westminster Presbyterian Church spent more than $80 million removing and rebuilding buildings and skyways in its downtown Minneapolis space.

Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville finished an expansion in 2018 that included a 1,110-seat worship center, classrooms and an expanded commons area and parking lot. The expansion was named a Finance & Commerce Top Project of 2018.

Mayflower Church redeveloped its site to include affordable housing in collaboration with the Beacon Collaborative nonprofit developer.

Masjid An-Nur in North Minneapolis is considering putting up affordable housing in or near their mosque.

Downtown St. Olaf's Catholic Church will develop parking lot into transitional/affordable housing.

First Covenant Church is partnering with Community Housing Development Corporation to build a 169-unit, six-story affordable housing project on land that was previously used as a parking lot. The project is due for completion next May

"We are getting more calls," said Nicole Thompson, president of Minneapolis-based Station 19 Architects, which does the bulk of its work with worship clients. "We have a couple of proposals going all the time."

Thompson attributed the flurry of rebuilding and remodeling...

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