Early churches and mission to Islam

It is often said that the church's practice of having specific buildings is counter-productive in terms of Islamdom. The idea is that when you have a structure you have something to make you identifiable and visible, which makes you less resistant to persecution. There is a good point there--the more you have to lose the more worried about buildings and facilities you will be.

On the other hand, it is clear that very early on there was property that was in the hands of the church, for example certain tombs in Carthage c. 200 AD belonged to the church. They would go there and, at the cemetery, on the tomb, celebrate communion. Macabre, I know.

There is also a benefit to having a visible presence in a place. If you want a Bible you will often go to a church--one that you have seen in this or that neighborhood. In other words, the strength of a low-visibility home church is also it's weakness--it's not visible to those outside of the community. Not to mention that Muslim governments tend to be highly suspicious of any religious meeting in a home, well you can see that home churches solve some problems and then cause some other.

Good stuff here from CT on the earliest church buildings:

For the most part, the church was dependent on members or supporters (patrons) who owned larger houses, providing a place for meeting. In Rome, there are indications that early Christians met in other public spaces such as warehouses or apartment buildings. Even when there were several meeting sites in a city, the Christians had the sense of being one church. They maintained unity through organization (from the second century on, beginning at different times in different places, one bishop in a city became the center of unity for orthodox Christians there) and symbolic gestures (in Rome, the eucharistic bread was sent from the bishop's church to other assemblies).

Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, corporate ownership of property by the church could be legally ambiguous. It seems that the first property owned by the Roman church were the catacombs. These were not places of meeting, however, but burial sites.


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