Monday, October 25, 2010

Open church door survey

In my life I have belonged to 3 churches. And each of these churches has, in its own way, provided sanctuary for me in times when I needed to feel safe or to re-center myself on a spiritual level. There was a time when having an open sanctuary literally saved my life.

The doors of the first two churches were always open when I needed them. I could just walk right in. The last church was always locked, but since I had a key because of other work I did there, I was able to use the sanctuary whenever I had the need. Until they took my keys away.

Having no quiet sacred space currently in my life continues to be a huge void I need to fill.

I have now become very interested in how physically welcoming churches actually are. When I went to the cemetery last month there was a church there, doors wide open with a sign outside saying “all are welcome”. I sat in that church before and after visiting the grave site and I am very thankful that it was there. I recently visited NYC with my daughter and every church we passed had its doors open.

My former church as just completed a new mission statement where one of its eight missions is a welcoming facility, although the text only talks about freshly painted rooms and new computers in the education building. The building is always locked, although the Elders have a security code to get in. When the secretary is there you can hit a call button to be let in but it is at a tiny side entrance a visitor would not know about. And in their newsletter is this.

Does not feel very welcoming to me.

So I am asking my limited (and mostly atheist) readership if their places of worship are available to anyone wishing to use their sanctuary. Are there only certain times, security access, or other impediments to welcoming a stranger? Even if you don’t have a church now, any info on your childhood or neighborhood church would be welcome. If you have a story about how the availability of an open sanctuary helped you, I would love to hear that too. And for all those readers who never comment, feel free to answer anonymously. I am just trying to get a sense of it.


  1. Even if the doors are open, no churches near me welcome LBGT people.

  2. I don't know if my church doors are open other than Sundays. I will find out and get back to you.

  3. Sadly, the church I attend has a push button combination lock on the side door--so if you are a member it's possible to go in any time. I'd like doors open. There was a time when I had run away and needed a place to stay and somehow found an open church.

    I'd give the combination to anyone. And Anonymous, if you entered my church many would welcome you. I would want to have lunch and hope we would be friends. If I knew just one LBGT person, it would help...

  4. I remember my childhood church always being open and until right now I thought that was the way all churches operated. I find that to be really, really sad for the people who veiw their church as more of a home - being locked out seems very wrong to me.

  5. Like our former church, my current church sanctuary is accessed from a larger building. It is accessible from 9 - 5 daily yet I don't think anyone but members would realize that.

    After my husband died I used the sanctuary (of a previous church) often for private prayer and found solace there.

  6. I had to call dad on this - the minister of his church unlocks the doors in the morning and the night janitor locks them when he leaves at night. They used to leave it unlocked all the time but had problems with homeless people taking up residence.

    There is some kind of irony in that.

  7. Not being raised in the church going tradition, I can only tell you that the two churches near my house growing up were both open all day long. But, this was back in the 60's and 70's. Today, I don't know. There is a Metropolitan Community Church a few blocks from my house but I doubt that it is left unlocked all of the time. Too much crime in the city. But, they do have lovely rainbow flags flying out front when the congregation meets!

  8. I have often entered a church sanctuary in order to pray and reflect in solitude. I have never had to knock or ask permission.

    It is God's House after all.

    Isn't it?