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How the Internet is Killing off Church Steeples

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Well, this is interesting.

According to USA Today, church steeples across the United States are disappearing.

The steeple at St. Mark's Episcopal in Wadsworth, Ohio is rotting away, having weathered the elements since 1842. But the $30,000 repair bill is a stretch for a congregation that numbers a mere 58. And aside from hefty maintenance costs which rise as steeples age, it seems that the steeple has "outlived its usefulness as a signpost."

"People hunting for a church don't scan the horizon, they search the Internet," writes the paper's Cathy Lynn Grossman. "Google reports searches for 'churches' soar before Easter each year."

However, while technology may be encroaching on the original purpose of steeple, technology may also be what saves the ones which remain.

Grossman explains that Providence Baptist Church in McLean, Va., "managed to get a whole new aluminum steeple and $25,000 annually for its maintenance budget" by turning it into a cell tower.

"Now we have a steeple, hiding two cell antennas, that gives us a really big profile on the horizon. It's elegant and majestic and a win-win for us," Senior Pastor Tim Floyd says.

As it happens, the "steeple-as-cell-tower" is quite a bit more common than one might think:

And then there are cell towers that aren't hidden at all. In fact, the more people that see them, the better:

Of course, there are societal shifts that are hastening the death of the steeple, as well. Architect Gary Landhauser, who has designed nearly 30 churches, says, ""We have done a lot of church designs, but we haven't done a steeple design in 15 years."

In fact, many people today don't even want their church to look like a church. These folks, Landhauser says, prefer their houses of worship to look "more like a mall."

Fortunately for them, options abound:

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