Prayerful Preservation

This week’s reading on the details of preservation was informative and thought provoking. I find that I have not yet completely worked out my own preservation philosophy, however. I am still debating controversial questions such as which buildings are worthy of preservation and how the preservation of those buildings should be funded.

On that note, the book’s discussion of the debate behind preservation of churches and other religious buildings particularly intrigued me. I like to think of myself as a strong First Amendment supporter, so at first something about the thought of taxpayer money supporting the upkeep/conservation/restoration/reconstruction/preservation/whatever of a building used for a specifically religious purpose made me uncomfortable. However, I firmly believe in the historical integrity and significance of many of these types of buildings, so my inner preservationist wanted to cast those misgivings aside. (Not to mention that the architecture of churches like the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston is just awesome!) I still don’t know how I feel about the St. Bartholomew’s case (which “established that religious organizations are subject to historic preservation ordinances of local government, and that such regulations are not a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state” [130]). By the end of the book, however, I became more convinced of the legal legitimacy of preserving religious buildings, as they seem to comply with several of the “eight points” of the “historic context framework” discussed in chapter 5 (namely the first three: “peopling places,” “creating social institutions and movements,” and “expressing cultural values”). American history is bursting with religious themes, and the preservation of sites with historic religious integrity must certainly be justified; it only must be done so cautiously.

One thought on “Prayerful Preservation”

  1. I agree with you that Boston has many great examples of preservation done well. It really would be a tragedy to lose some of the religious structures housed in this historic city!

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