Sunday, January 26, 2003

See, now we thought this was stuff you'd only find in an evangelical megachurch in between the McDonald's and the skateboard ramps.

But no:

Bowling alleys in churches date from the 1950's, in St. Louis, at least:

Epiphany Lanes and St. Mary Magdalen Bowling Lanes are the last of a dying breed.

The lanes, which belong to their respective south St. Louis parishes, are almost identical icons of family life from the 1950s and '60s. Both welcome parish regulars as well as outsiders for weekly league nights, private parties and open bowling sessions.

Magdalen Lanes, which opened in 1950 , is equipped with 10 lanes and automatic pinsetters. It bills itself as a family-oriented bowling center that provides the community a good game of tenpins. The church also hosts small leagues, private parties, open bowling sessions and special events designed to attract different segments of the church parish.

Of course, it is a bit curious why a church would need its own bowling alley. Isn't its mission to get souls out of the alleys and into the pews?

According to Terry Signaigo, Epiphany and St. Mary Magdalen were merely trying to keep up with the times.

"Back in the '50s, that was the way for a lot of Catholic parishes to make money. St. Anthony's, St. John the Baptist, Mary Magdalen, Corpus Christi - it was the thing to do. Probably 30 or 40 churches had bowling alleys at that time," said Signaigo.

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