Preserving Spaces and Serving Communities
Efforts to preserve and redevelop houses of faith to better support their communities continue across the country.
A vacant church in Brooklyn has been repurposed into a Muslim community center and mosque. Members of the community came together and raised $2.6M to purchase the property and began to carve out a space for a Muslim community center. The center now includes a space for prayer, books on Islam, a food pantry, and a variety of community programs.
Despite the challenges faced by some houses of faith, we see innovative efforts to keep these institutions alive and thriving. In Williamstown, Massachusetts, the Congregational Church is seeking partners to help pay for building repairs to preserve the historic building and bring in more of the community. They plan to open up the church as a community center for all ages and hope to create a welcoming space.
In Auburn, Maine, a church is being redeveloped into apartments, while in West Springfield, Massachusetts, a historic church built in 1802 is now home to a recording studio. The West Springfield community went to great lengths to ensure the exterior of the church would be preserved by creating a historic preservation restriction.
Last week marked an intersection of religious celebrations – Passover, Ramadan, Holy Week, and Easter.
To celebrate, many observed Lab/Shul’s Liberation Seder on the first night of Passover at Judson Memorial Church. Community members from various faiths were in attendance including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists, observant, non-observant, and ritualists.
The event was filled with prayer, music, food, and a convergence of community.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness
The housing crisis in New York City is at record-breaking levels. Over 73,200 people are staying in city shelters and there are over 300 homeless youths in DYCD-funded shelters. Through the temporary Emergency Housing Voucher Program, 280 young adults moved out of shelters and into a place of their own since July 2021.
The faith community is in a unique position to combat the housing crisis, and the benefit is twofold. Through creating affordable housing and providing shelter for those in need, houses of faith are also filling their spaces and earning funds for their congregations.
Throughout Maine, church properties are being redeveloped into housing. In the former St. Joseph Convent, 88 apartments are being created – 66 affordable units and 22 market rate. Developers also plan to expand behind the property, adding an additional 161 units.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, Pastor Rob Campbell is passionate about providing affordable housing for his community. New Beginning Christian Church is sponsoring an adjacent housing building with 68 units to be built.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts churches have been housing refugees from Afghanistan since 2021.
While these efforts bring communities together, it’s no easy task. Congregations need support and funding to accomplish projects such as these.