Chuck Marohn starts a recent post on Strong Towns with a pointed appeal for the role of religious institutions in encouraging less auto-centric lifestyles: “Church leaders around the country should be doing everything they can to reconnect the social bonds of our communities. We reconnect the social bonds most easily and effectively when we reconnect the physical bonds. We should be obsessed with getting people out of their cars and back into each other’s lives.”
By reconnecting social bonds, Marohn means encouraging multi-modal transportation options: “It is more than a little ironic that I’ve had more conversations with our next door neighbors of the past sixteen years in the brief moments walking in and out of church than I’ve ever had on our street or, perhaps more amazingly, in each other’s homes. When either of us travel to church, we back out of our garages, hit the automatic garage door opener to close it, drive to church, park in one of the convenient parking lots, attend church and then do the trip home in reverse. Essentially, we’re Churching Alone,” writes Marohn, with the final words a reference to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone.
Marohn’s post was inspired by a specific controversy in his hometown of Barinerd, Minnesota (but church parking has been controversial elsewhere, as well), where the priest asked parishioners to attend council meanings in opposition to a plan that would a bicycle lane and remove street parking on a street adjacent to the church.