Beer looked around. Her bed is in the choir loft and there's an espresso machine where the hymnals used to be; the arched windows are clear but they rattle; cobwebs shimmy on fading whitewashed walls.
"Jesus is gone," she said. "I'd like to turn it into a studio for artists."
The village church is struggling for relevance in modern Europe. The continent is rooted in Christianity, but devotion is ebbing and church attendance has dropped steadily for years. In Germany and other nations, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches are selling properties or leasing them to other religious groups, especially in cities and villages where structures are left vacant as shrinking congregations merge.
Churches have been reinvented as restaurants, coffee houses, clubs, apartments and music halls. Some have kept their frescoes and stained glass; others have been de-sanctified, yet their unmistakable facades and architecture leave an imprint of the holy on even the most capitalist of endeavors.
On Sunday morning the empty pews and gray heads in Delaware's mainline churches are making some pastors a little anxious.
They want to fill the pews but don't know how, said the Rev. Greg Brown of Milton, a clergy coach who works with pastors.
Mainline denominations -- such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians -- have declined in Delaware by 2 percent to 3 percent from 1990 to 2000, the latest statistics available.
Question of survival
Yet if people lose the habit of finding meaning in worship, will all of the state's churches survive?
This is a question mainline denominations have been asking for about 40 years as they've seen their memberships decline, said the Rev. Mark Pruett-Barnett, chaplain at Wesley College.
In fact, most of the more than 300,000 U.S. congregations are not growing.
Could it be that people find superior happiness in real-world activities and interests rather than praying to and worshipping something that you can't see, hear, or otherwise directly experience? Recently, I saw a Simpsons episode where Marge was babysitting Ned Flanders’ sons. Rod (or Todd, I can't remember) relays to his father what he thought of his time spent with Marge by saying, "She made us happy. For real happy, not church happy."
And the statistics seem to agree with the Flanders' assessment of happiness. Church attendance and violent crime correlate, where less of one tends to go along with less of another, at least nationwide. This applies to both America and Germany. The high crime areas of Germany are where there is a high theist (Muslim) population, and the lower crime areas of Germany are the unchurched areas.
Now of course, I am not implying causation between the two. No, I believe its more complex than that. I believe that secularism and good social behavior are both caused by education and prosperity. More education and prosperity = more happiness, which leads to less crime and less church attendance. Basically, if you find real happiness through self-awareness and accomplishment, you won't try to find it in crappy places, like in crime sprees and worship services.