Sacred Places Winter 2019 - Page 2

from the President WINTER 2019 National Fund Spotlight: Congregation Beth Ahabah and Other Recently Completed Projects 3 A Tale of Two Churches: Lancaster Churches Address Spiritual, Social, and Environmental Needs 6 Sacred Places Indiana: Developing New Connections Between Sacred Places and Their Communities 8 Saint James Place: Rebirthed, Restored, and Renewed 12 New Chapter for a Modern Landmark in the Heartland 15 Professional Alliance Directory 18 P ARTNERS FOR S ACRED P LACES is the only national, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to the sound stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties. Partners builds the capability of congregational leadership for building care, shared use, and capital fundraising through training programs, fundraising assistance, and organizational and facility assessments. In the process, Partners becomes a trusted resource and guide as congregations examine and weigh opportunities. Partners engages with congregations to focus on critical areas such as: • Asset–mapping and community engagement—assisting congregations to develop new relationships with neighbors and potential community partners. • Strategic partnerships and space sharing—brokering agreements between sacred places and arts, food justice, health, education, and social service programs. • Planning for capital campaigns to support repairs and renovations that preserve significant historic features and make spaces usable for new community programs. • Collaborative initiatives among unrelated congregations in a neighborhood to encourage coordinated outreach, space usage, joint marketing and interpretive events, and coordinated work with public agencies for lighting, signage, and streetscape improvements. Cover Photograph: Peace Garden at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Indianapolis Credit: Debbie Dehler 2 SACRED PLACES • WINTER 2019 n one of Philadelphia’s most historic neighborhoods, where African Americans settled starting in the 19 th century—and where W.E.B. Du Bois studied the sociology of Black life in his landmark study, The Philadelphia Negro—ten churches have closed amidst gentrification and enormous demographic change. Among those that were demolished: Union Baptist Church, where Marian Anderson grew up and first sang as a young woman, setting the stage for her international renown. In North Adams, a small city in the northwest corner of Massachusetts best known today as the home of MASS MoCA, six sacred places have closed over the last 30 years: St. Francis of Assisi Church, Holy Family, Notre Dame, First Methodist, First Unitarian, and the United House of Israel synagogue. Should we be concerned when such large numbers of congregations close, and so many sacred places are demolished or gutted in our towns and neighborhoods? What is the cumulative effect on our quality of life, our streetscapes and our access to community-serving programs? One scholar, Dr. Thomas Frank, University Professor and Associate Dean for Continuing Studies at Wake Forest University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, has been examining North Adams for years. His conclusion: “Mass closures not only threaten impending blight but disrupt the profound sense of place essential to community character. Padlocked buildings close off the public spaces so important to social services, programs for children, youth and seniors, and community gatherings for fish frys, special speakers, and musical or theatrical performances. The sad result has been the diminishment of social connection and capital, and the dislocation of programs that already have to scramble for funding.” As Dr. Frank has noted, “All this does not need to happen.” Of course we here at Partners agree, and we are at the forefront of efforts to stem the tide of church and synagogue closings, and the emptying of historic places. Our mission is to help congregations—and their communities— find new ways to sustain their presence and make the most of their buildings as assets for outreach and ministry. We also need to document and communicate the larger harm that is done to communities when a critical mass of sacred places is lost. Partners has already established a strong reputation for its occasional research projects that have documented the enormous civic value of sacred places when they are still owned and occupied by congregations. Now is the time to learn more, and tell America how communities are affected — and how this loss can be minimized—before it is too late. —A. Robert Jaeger I In This Issue