Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ore. Pastors Speak Out About Churches Meeting in Public Schools

Many churches, especially start-ups, rent public school facilities on weekends in order to house their worship services. While opponents to these arrangements say that religious organizations have no business holding services in a government institution, the pastors of these churches say their presence is in the best interest of the community.

Willy Burns, pastor of Southside Community Church in Newberg, Ore., said his congregation met in a public elementary school for three years, and during that time they had a few “scares” from school board members who complained about the church's presence but had a good experience overall.

“To say that churches that are renting the facilities are being supported by the schools is nonsensical,” Burns said in an email to The Christian Post. “If any group wants to come in and rent the facility they may, and I think that is a real win for the school district, especially given the harsh economic times we live in where schools are being hit hard and teachers are being cut.”

Meanwhile, Michael Gaffney, pastor of Ascent Christian Church in Prineville, Ore., said his congregation meets in a local high school auditorium because the cost of rent is a good alternative to being “handcuffed” to a mortgage payment. Renting from the school allows his church to reserve more of its money for ministry, he said, and all of the rent money goes toward the high school's auditorium and theater program.

Gaffney doesn't want the church to have a mortgage, because, "like it does in a marriage, it becomes a stressor on the church, and then sooner or later, usually sooner, the church finds itself in a position where it has come to serve the building rather than the building serving the church.”

Eight out of 10 of Oregon’s largest school districts are currently renting their facilities to religious groups, but not everyone is happy about it, according to The Associated Press. To read more, click here.

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