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A Roman Catholic congregation in Norcross, Ga., is seeking a larger building to serve its religious purposes. But rather than look to an architect, church leaders are focused on a century-old church building a mere 900 miles away.

According to USA TODAY,the suburban Atlanta parish known as Mary our Queen wants to disassemble, transport and rebuild the historic St. Gerard’s Church in Buffalo that was closed in 2008.

The demographic reality is that the percentage of Roman Catholics in New York state has been in steady decline for years while the numbers in Georgia have been on the rise.

According to the news report, the Norcross congregation will need to raise approximately $15 million for the church-relocation project, about half of the cost to build the same structure from scratch. The whole process is expected to take about two years.

While Roman Catholic leaders struggle with what to do with shuttered churches, they are feeling pressure from local preservationists who do not want these architecturally-significant structures to move, be altered or be left to decay.

Yet dwindling membership and the high cost of upkeep make it impossible for church leaders to keep going on as usual. Relocation may become a more common alternative.

Religion News Service has reported that in some settings, such as Cleveland, Ohio, a church-state battle is brewing between government officials seeking to put restrictive designations on historic church buildings and church leaders without sufficient funds to maintain the structures.

The arguments on both sides of the issue have merit. There is no easy answer.

However, I do offer two suggestions:

First, persons with interest in preservation might consider joining a church with a historic building and helping to keep the congregation and the facility in good shape for as long as possible.

And, second, will the Roman Catholics in Norcross please let us know exactly which roads to avoid when that 800-seat basilica is headed to Georgia?

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