Baptism by asphalt: how Emmanuel Episcopal handles its parking predicament.

I’ve blogged in the past—by this point, the distant past—about church parking lots, and what they indicate about religious life and the shift in denominational trends that took place during the twentieth century…trends that continue unabated in the twenty-first. I have no idea about the state of things at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in northern Virginia, near the West Virginia border (population 5,000). Maybe they’re two weeks away from closing; perhaps they’re thriving. It doesn’t matter quite as much when they have a wry sense of humor:

Emmanuel Episcopal baptism for parking violators

Check the permanent sign warning of illicit parking: “Violators will be baptized”. Does the church have to worry about frequent violators in a small-town setting where parking is abundant? Does this mean that this church might very well see baptism as a punishment? Am I overthinking the whole thing? Inconclusive answer to the first two questions; a definitive yes to the third.

Regardless of the intents, it’s sad that the rector or administrators at Emmanuel Episcopal had to insert a legitimate, enforceable sign into the grass below. Then again, perhaps it means that people either a) didn’t take the church’s sign seriously; or b) they deliberately parked at Emmanuel, in the hopes that they might really receive a baptism! Again, I’m overthinking. But then, this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise…

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8 thoughts on “Baptism by asphalt: how Emmanuel Episcopal handles its parking predicament.

  1. Alex Pline

    My guess is this is a result of overspill (literally and figuratively) from the Woodstock Brewhouse across the street.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirt

      Do you know this courtesy of Google Maps or from firsthand experience? You are absolutely right; we went there for dinner. It’s a huge place.

      Reply
      1. Alex Pline

        Google maps. Always good for context, but may not tell the whole story based on day/time. When I saw this I was reminded we have similar kinds of experience here, where churches and bars are close and the church parking lots are empty most of the time but they still don’t want bar patrons parking there. Too bad, seems like a money maker to sell excess capacity to satisfy parking regs.

        Reply
        1. AmericanDirt

          Yes, you’ve touched on a bogeyman of mine: the urban church parking lot. These are far too common in urban areas that deteriorated, where the land values got so low (and vacant land so abundant) that the surviving churches could purchase a parking lot across from their site that gets used 2-3 hours a week, and, thanks to the depopulation, probably isn’t necessary anyway. I wish more churches would negotiate sharing arrangements with other entities, especially in areas that are repopulating (but maybe not quite enough yet to justify selling the lot for a higher and better use). Even in the suburbs, where parking lots are necessary, church parking often seems like a monumental waste. Since many churches are declining today (and losing revenue), perhaps those sharing arrangement will seem more lucrative.

          Reply
  2. Island Guy

    In Richmond, VA, St James’s and the synagogue next door jointly own a parking garage. After all, their periods of heaviest use won’t conflict, ever! Both institutions seem to offer a lot of community services that require staff during the week, and they don’t have to compete with Virginia Commonwealth University just a couple of blocks away.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirt

      Your Richmond example seems to be the ticket. It’s rare that a church owns something as expensive as a parking garage, but in urban settings, a corner parking lot isn’t uncommon, and they rarely get much use. This is likely to change in teh future, as urban land (once again) becomes valuable and religious institutions either cave to development pressures or seek some other means of generating revenue. In many other cases, the church can lease to an office from Monday through Friday, since their parking needs are pretty light, outside of Sunday mornings and (possibly) Wednesday evenings–times that don’t conflict with the typical workday.

      Reply
  3. Don Hunt

    What a remarkable site and what remarkable writing! I would love to read about who you are and how you discover so many interesting sights.

    Reply

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