Faces of the abandoned church

Have you ever seen an abandoned church building?

At WebUrbanist, there’s a fascinating series of photos of abandoned church buildings, in varying states of decay and ranging from the strangely beautiful to the downright depressing. Here’s a sample:


I recently took a road trip through the American midwest and saw several abandoned-looking churches (although none as photogenic as these). I don’t believe that church buildings, simple or ornate, have any special quality of “holiness,” and so seeing these images isn’t a spiritual shock.

But they do raise questions, some of them a bit sad: what happened to the people who once worshipped here? Are they happily worshiping at another church today? What caused them to leave the church—was it theological disagreement, a slow decline in membership, collapse of the local economy? What was it like to worship in these churches for the last time?

Jeff Berryman has some poignant thoughts on these images:

Two hundred years from now, or four hundred—and I know it’s not the same for a thousand reasons—but imagine someone wandering through the ruins of the place where you worship, if you do.  What, they will wonder, went on here?  What happened?  How and why did such beauty get lost?

And of course, people are churches, many abandoned and worn down, the images of these abandoned rooms images of many spirits and souls.

What about you? Do you pass churches like these in your own town? How do these images make you feel?

7 Responses to “Faces of the abandoned church”

  • Jess says:

    If my church disappeared today – would anyone weep?

  • Pastor D. Christopher says:

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the relevance of some churches and denominations are being called into question. I am reminded of the powerful declarative made by Jesus when he said in Matthew 16:18, referring to the church, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In essence, the church shall never die, or cease to exist. If a church fails to exist in this age, then it can be inferred that they are not a part of the Kingdom system or community of believers – church.

  • Greg Watts says:

    A very poignant photo. Here across the pond in London many churches are being turned into apartment blocks, warehouses or restaurants. In some cases, chapels or former Anglican churches have been taken over by independent African churches, of which there are now dozens in the city.

  • Great topic… that we’ve created this sacred spaces for gathering and reflection is something we want to remember… consecrated space is an important part of our embodied experience.

    I’ve a friend, Jeff Lefever, fine artist turned photographer, is working on a project to capture sacred spaces, many falling into ruin, around the world… you can see some of his work here: http://www.lefever.com/2009_gallery_consecrated.html

    Unlike WebUrbanist, he’s trying to bring these sacred spaces home in his work as fine-art contemplation to reignite the modern church. I’m glad more attention is being brought to this subject.

    • Andy says:

      Dale, those photographs by your friend are amazing. Thanks for sharing them. And yeah, the topic of ‘sacred space’ is not one that comes up a lot in the American church at least, but it’s fascinating. American Christians, and Protestants in particular, have a somewhat quirky view of ‘sacred space’ that I suspect is heavily influenced by our cultural stressing of values like economy and efficiency. I imagine that our brothers and sisters in countries with more lasting monuments to historical worship would view things a bit differently.

  • Tom says:

    I love the church in the picture you posted, although it is sad to see the tower listing badly to the right! I agree with you about the spiritual side of things, and although I’ve not made my mind up yet about that sort of stuff, I do love churches and their architecture. Despite not being very religious, there’s something joyful about the church service, but it seems that abandoned and broken down old churches lose any sense of such joy, never even hinting at it. You should check out Sheffield General Cemetery

  • quynston w allen says:

    As a 57 year old christian I ahve lived long enough to see a falling away from the church. Some of this is due to unethical behavior of religious leaders, some is due to the destruction of the family unit and some is due to prophecy in that these things are to happen in the course of time and Jesus’s return. I have found this to be a personal challenge to continue to do what is right. It is not easy to maintain a positive attitude when there is a long,hard battle with the enemy;especially when family also gives you hell.