In Pursuit of the Almighty's Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism

By James Hudnut-Beumler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Changing the Nature of the Firm:
From Institutional to Consumer Churches

A major transformation of the function of church buildings took place toward the end of the nineteenth century and at the start of the twentieth. Viewed economically, expectations for the building as a productive capital asset were increasing. In the eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth, the church building was expected to provide shelter for the worshipers on Sunday and be a venue for lesser services throughout the week. The studies or offices of the clergy were invariably located in the minister's home, parsonage, manse, or rectory. Some of this, of course, was simple efficiency. Heat and light, precious commodities, were needed throughout the week in the pastor's domicile. So it made great sense to heat a small physical plant instead of a large one, except in cases where numerous people needed to be accommodated. Prayer meetings conducted during the week would take place in the manse or in private homes. More than just frugality, however, was involved; the lack of shared meeting spaces and offices in church buildings reflected the absence of a larger conception of what a religious congregation should do, be, and provide. Church buildings were not widely used even as staging points for the works of charity

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