Our Sunday News carried an interesting piece on a dispute going on in Rochester. A Protestant church in the Lilac City gives over space to a comprehensive program for drug users trying to shake their addiction.
The First Congregational Church on South Main Street is the setting for the SOS Recovery Community Organization’s programs that include recovering coaching, art and music therapy, and group meetings.
The two say this is very much in fitting with the church’s mission. The city of Rochester says that may be, but this is a “change of use” that needs to be recognized. The church, it says, needs to file with the city planning department.
The church doesn’t wish to do so. It says Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held there, as are Boy Scout meetings and the like. The new effort is just another example of its mission.
Well, what if the church welcomed a group of Christian rock musicians to practice their chords on electric guitar and drums, seven days a week? What if a Habitat for Humanity-type business wished to do its sheet-metal fabrication there? Both, it could be argued, might further the church’s “striving for righteousness, justice and peace,’’ as its court documents acclaim.
This is called unintended consequences, which is what the city would be wise to prevent. It is why the city wants the church to file an application, which the city seems most willing to grant.
City Attorney Terence O’Rourke said a community center is a permitted use and thus granting the application should not be a big deal. “They just need to file the correct paperwork and go through the approval process.”
The head of the recovery group, John Burns, said his goal “would be somebody comes to their senses, and we figure out a way around this.”
Good advice, Mr. Burns. You and the church should take it and file for the approval.