The Commercial Appeal

Churches’ challenge


On one hand, the purchase agreement whereby Rhodes College soon will acquire the land and buildings of Evergreen Presbyteri­an Church must be viewed as a good thing.

The majestic 62-year-old church just off North Parkway in Memphis is a landmark that surely should be saved. With the Rhodes College campus just across the street from the church, it makes good sense for the college to own the Evergreen Presbyteri­an building and grounds.

The land offers a great opportunit­y for the college to expand its campus and perhaps find new uses for the church sanctuary, which can hold 1,000 people.

But the church wasn’t attracting anywhere near that number in recent years. A good Sunday would find 300 people in the pews. That size congregati­on wasn’t enough to sustain Evergreen Presbyteri­an at its current location — even with its programs in athletics, education and community outreach.

Built at a time when congregati­ons were overflowin­g in the 1950s, Evergreen Presbyteri­an is symbolic of a challenge many mainline churches and congregati­ons face today: a shrinking pool of congregant­s and givers.

Only days ago, the Paulist Fathers, a Catholic order that has operated St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Memphis for more than half a century, announced that the order’s last two priests in Memphis will be leaving the city this summer. There just aren’t enough of them left to staff the church.

The Rhodes-Evergreen convergenc­e may well be an opportunit­y for that church to rethink its mission and practices. There are churches that are thriving these days — many with smaller congregati­ons, more community outreach, and built on a focused effort to tailor services to a younger crowd.

There has never been more of a need for spiritual growth and care and love for our fellow man. How these callings are addressed must be a central theme for every mainline church in the city these days.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States