The Reformed Church is rethinking its real estate strategy. Soon Muslims and Jews could also use their rooms.
The Reformed Church demands amid a continuing decline in membership. Statistics from the Canton of Zurich show that it has lost around 6,600 members annually over the past ten years. At the same time, the Church owns numerous properties that are visited by fewer and fewer members. The Evangelical-Reformed parish of Zurich alone owns 43 churches, 35 parish buildings and over 300 apartments. Total value: around 1.2 billion Swiss francs.
Lots of space and fewer and fewer members: That is one of the reasons why the Reformed Church in the city of Zurich is currently wanting to redefine how it deals with its real estate. Among other things, it is planned that their rooms will also be made available to other religious communities in the future. For example, Muslims and Jews should be allowed to use the rooms of the Reformed Church. The development of sacred buildings is also a topic.
The future will be more interreligious
One thing is clear: the base of the Reformed Church is divided when it comes to this new use of real estate. A survey of 500 members shows that around a quarter reject the said new rule. Especially for people over 75 who attend church regularly, it is unthinkable that other religious communities say their prayers in Christian rooms. As the church newspaper “reformiert” reports, younger members had no problems with it.
The result does not surprise Michael Hauser. He works as a church curator in the parish of Zurich and also takes care of the future use of the property. He says: “If the exclusivity is lost, some members are afraid that the church will no longer be available to them when they urgently need it.” These concerns must be taken care of, says Hauser.
However, according to Grossmünster pastor Christoph Sigrist, there is a fundamental need for interreligious, communal use of church spaces in Zurich. As President of the Forum of Religions, he knows about the lack of space in mosques. Numerous mosques in the Zurich agglomeration communities were overcrowded during the last Bayram festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. “In the future we will also be able to discuss this question,” says Sigrist.
The Christian faith understands the need of religious communities for a space where everyone can pray together in public, Sigrist continues. “We have already experienced that, four days after the outbreak of the Ukraine war, all religions gathered in the Grossmünster and prayed together.” It didn’t matter whether someone was an atheist, Buddhist or Muslim, but “it was a world community.”
It could be as early as next year
There is need and willingness. Whether one day different religions will come and go in the Reformed Churches in Zurich has not yet been decided. The new real estate strategy is now going to the parliament of the parish. If she agrees, the new mission statement can come into force in 2023.