Sacred Places Summer 2009 - Page 14

REVIVAL AT CALVARY (cont.) efforts such as new signage, nighttime lighting for the stained glass, and landscaping design. Neighbors pitched in by designing, building and maintaining the Calvary gardens. Restoring the Church To date, the Center has achieved enormous success. It has raised more than a million dollars for major structural repairs, renovation and restoration of the building. All spaces of the immense building are being used. Only the sanctuary awaits full restoration, though it too is regularly utilized. A new roof was installed, and the heating system was completely overhauled. The two main granite-clad gable walls, which had shifted more than a foot-and-a-half out of plumb and threatened to fall onto the sidewalk below, were dismantled, had new supports installed and then reconstructed. Additional work included deep-relief plaster repair, restoration of the bishop’s office, and bringing the kitchen back to working condition. Building Community The Center has also worked to redevelop the building for new uses, and here the Center’s work has far exceeded expectations. Today, the building – once almost empty – is a true community center, home to many different organizations. UCHS was among the first groups to establish its permanent offices at Calvary, underscoring its recognition of the importance of this kind of preservation and redevelopment work. Cedar Park Neighbors, a five-hundred-family community group representing Calvary’s neighborhood, also established its offices at Calvary. Several other groups established permanent offices at Calvary, including Prometheus Radio Project, a group that sets up community radio stations all over the world, and advocates nationally for freedom and non-consolidation of the airwaves. The Literacy Center of Philadelphia and the Mariposa Food Co-op use the building for staff meetings and group work. Three large twelvestep groups make Calvary home, each meeting there several times weekly. Local bakers use the newly updated kitchen. The building is often used for town meetings in the neighborhood, for retreats, and for meetings of a variety of organizations. Calvary has become the community’s unofficial town hall. The building also serves as a venue for the performing arts, as envisioned by the original focus groups. The Crossroads Music Series, currently in its seventh year, organizes a full season of world music concerts. The Curio Theatre Company made its home at Calvary in 2004. Its full theater season is presented on the flexible staging built at the front of the sanctuary space. Special concerts and events are performed on a space-available basis, including the annual neighborhood talent show, which was founded at Calvary in 2005. The Calvary Center has become well established as the primary venue for culture and the arts in the neighborhood. Sacred Places • • Summer 2009 A Spiritual Incubator And, of course, Calvary remains a sacred space. The Calvary United Methodist Church remains in its own building, and is finally beginning to grow again. Today, the Calvary congregation views the Calvary Center and shared building use as one of its most important ministries. But Calvary UMC no longer worships alone at Calvary – there are five other Christian congregations that call Calvary home, including a Mennonite congregation, an Ethiopian congregation, and three Pentecostal congregations. Calvary made local history when the first synagogue in the neighborhood in more than half a century – Kol Tzedek, a new Reconstructionist congregation – was established and housed in the church. Several interfaith services have been a real highlight for all the congregations. If anything, Calvary is more meaningful as a sacred space than ever before. The “Halo Effect” Calvary been able to share space at well-below market rates, and yet income from building use now pays for the sexton, the building administrator, all building utilities, and dayto-day maintenance and repairs. Calvary Center continues to raise money for the large renovation and restoration projects. Calvary UMC has been able to achieve a balanced budget every year. All this activity has helped to build community, perhaps the most important dividend of all. Over the last several years, encouraged in part by Calvary’s renaissance, seven restaurants have sprung up in the blocks surrounding Calvary, and a new bookstore, two coffee houses, a wellness center and a second venue for the performing arts have created a revitalized Baltimore Avenue. The University City District made Baltimore Avenue an official Commercial Corridor, with new street lighting and new green spaces up and down the avenue. The whole area has a vibrant, welcoming look, and people are using it as a destination for evening entertainment in their own neighborhood. Moreover, members of the congregations that relocated to Calvary have bought houses in the immediate neighborhood. The Calvary project has become a model for Partners primarily because it is a manifestation of Partners’ blueprint for the redevelopment of old religious buildings. While each sacred place and community is unique, Partners has demonstrated that treating the sacred place as an asset – acknowledging its value and potential by seeking new partners and new dollars from new sources, and by serving the community in new ways – is an approach that is applicable to many different situations. And every time another sacred place is reclaimed as an important asset, another community is made stronger.