Wal-Mart Sized Mega Churches Met With Protest


A problem some smaller communities are having is a recent insurgence of mega-churches, mosques and synagogues. These structures are huge, have an impact on the wildlife, water supplies, and landscape, and often inspire reflexive feelings of discomfort among townspeople who are accustomed to their small corner churches with tastefully understated steeples and manageable crowds on Sunday who have no problem fitting into the parking lot.

One such struggle between God's house and the public can be found in Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Maryland:
Global Mission Church, a predominantly Korean-American congregation in Silver Spring with nearly 2,000 members, has purchased the 120-acre site straddling Frederick and Montgomery counties at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. The three-story, 138,000-square-foot building would include a sanctuary for 1,160. Senior Pastor Dennis M. Kim - no relation to Manbae - says the Baptist church is simply following its membership, which clustered around Washington when it began 35 years ago, but has since migrated into Gaithersburg, Germantown and Frederick.

The staff of the Frederick County Planning Commission has recommended the site plan be approved. But after area residents raised objections at a commission hearing in July, the church attempted to ingratiate itself with the community at the open house last week at the Frederick Holiday Inn. Members laid on a spread of hors d'oeuvres while a string quartet from the Global Mission Church played. Architects, engineers and landscapers staffed information tables to respond to questions about the building project.

Among the 100 or so neighbors who crowded the room, there were many. Meg Menke of nearby Barnesville expressed concern about the church's carbon footprint. If 1,200 people travel three to a car 20 miles each way for services, she said, "we're talking 16,000 miles, whether they come all at once or not.

"In this day and age, we like to think of ourselves as being a little more enlightened about global stewardship and climate change," said Menke, who chairs the Barnesville Planning Commission. "I understand there hasn't been discussion about green architecture, geothermal energy and photoelectric. Where are energy sources coming from?"
This is a really good question. I would have not thought about this line of concern to be honest since my initial reaction to any mega-church construction plan is a reflexive 'ew, no.' I think that I would be far less opposed to these behemoth structures if they did focus and dedicate their building plans to being as green as possible. The funds that go into paying for these structures are 100% donated and the church itself doesn't pay taxes. I think a wonderful way to give back to a community which you don't give back to monetarily would be to act as a kind of guinea pig for new 'green' architecture and structural projects. There are plenty of government subsidies to be had by using these 'green'
Others said the church would jam up area roads and drain the area aquifer. Christine Kefauver said her family had lived around Sugarloaf Mountain for generations, and recounted past efforts to limit the surrounding development.

"When we see that church," she said, "it reminds me of driving down to [Interstate] 495 and seeing the Mormon Temple."
Church officials say the comparison is unfair. They say a balloon test showed that trees would obscure the church's highest point - an 85-foot spire - from passing traffic. Manbae Kim said more urban sites were prohibitively expensive; Dennis Kim said regulations in Montgomery County were too restrictive.

I have to assume that this is a reference to a Mormon temple in the area which is imposing on the rest of the landscape because of its size and placement, but when I read it the first time it struck me as a kind of childish back and forth. "you guys would be like the Mormons!" "Take it back!"
"Churches are doing meaningful ministries in the community," the senior pastor said, and named efforts to counsel families, combat drugs and clean up communities. "With no churches in the community, we would lose many good things. That's why we must survive and we must continue to serve. That's our purpose. That's why we are here."
Ok, now I have a problem. Scare tactics don't sit well with me and it sounds an awful lot like this pastor is trying to imply that if the community doesn't bend over and allow these giant churches to be built, their kids will become drug addicts and the community will fall apart. The implication as I read it is that communities thrive and are healthy because of church, not because of the people who comprise the community and that is insulting to everyone in Silver Spring.

It seems like churches are pushing for more and more and when the public stands up and says now wait a minute...the pastors and churches have no problem pulling out the pearl clutching tactics which have served them so well up until now. I'm glad to see people from the community letting their voice be heard when they disagree with these giant structures being built in their towns - it shows that the influence and intimidation of the church is not without limit.