Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update April 28, 2023

Repurposing and Expanding Houses of Worship

As some religious institutions close their doors, Baptist News reports on a new model for houses of worship inspired by Jane Jacobs, which focuses on creating community spaces that are open to everyone. Jacobs recommends four interventions for houses of worship that are struggling with declining attendance and participation. One recommendation is for congregations to convert faith properties into mixed-use developments by including community spaces, affordable housing, food services, or other activities. 

In Pittsburgh, six houses of worship have been converted to eateries, studios, community centers, music venues, and houses. 

Pastor Bruce Burkett (center) breaks ground for Lighthouse Baptist Church’s new building on County Road in Cortez. (Emily Burkett/Courtesy photo)

The Lighthouse Baptist Church in Colorado has broken ground for a new, larger church building, signaling a continued demand for community gathering spaces. Meanwhile, the original church building will be fully transformed into a school academy. 

In New York City, an innovative project turned the basement of a synagogue into a multi-purpose space for fashion and culture – and a way to help those in need. “Gemach” is short for the Jewish expression “gemilut chasidim” meaning “extending kindness.” Beautiful Memories Gemach is 2500 square feet of more than 40 racks and two try-on rooms with full mirrors and inventory that provides clothing and accessories for a fraction of the price. 

Some of the finds on display at the Beautiful Memories gemach. (credit: D.Furino/QualityCleanouts)

This past Ramadan was the Dawoodi Bohras of New York’s first time observing in their new mosque in St. Albans, Queens. During Ramadan, the Dawoodi Bohras hosted community members, including Councilwoman Nantasha Williams and NYPD’s 113th Precinct. The group said they want to use the opening as a way to interact with the community and share their customs. Through a community kitchen, the group delivers fresh, healthy meals five days a week to 80 Dawoodi Bohra families in Long Island and New York City, including Queens.

Creating Space for Faith Communities

Nearly one third of cab drivers in New York City are Muslim. For thousands of these ride-hailing service drivers, it’s hard to find a place to perform wudu, or ablution, and pray the five daily prayers. Not always near a mosque, the drivers feel the lack of public bathrooms, parking spaces, and private spaces throughout the day – many taking to local delis to pray in the corner. 

The Independent Drivers Guild offices in Long Island now have a dedicated prayer room and a wudu station, and they hope to create more dedicated prayer spaces and relief spaces for drivers across the City. 

The prayer room at the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) offices in Long Island City, New York. (Tori Luecking/Religion News Service)

Students at New York’s Baruch College are facing a similar issue with a lack of accessible interfaith spaces. Many students, a majority of them Muslim, are protesting for better and more accessible interfaith spaces on campus. The current interfaith space only fits 15 people, and many students struggle to find the room to pray without it getting crowded. 

Jewish students faced similar issues using the interfaith space and many resorted to praying in public spaces. 


Affordable Housing and Homelessness

There are ongoing efforts in New York City to address the affordable housing crisis and homelessness.

In a time when 70,000 people are sleeping in homeless shelters in NYC, 38,621 of the roughly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs were registered as vacant. 

Mayor Adams plans to offer incentives to landlords to upgrade these apartments in an effort to make them available for homeless and low-income populations. This new pilot program, named “Unlocking Doors” is set to cover the repairs for 400 rent-stabilized units.

A vacant unit in upper Manhattan last year. Photo by Adi Talwar

Advocacy and Houses of Faith

The deportation case against Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant activist, has been dropped. Montrevil was detained by ICE in 2018 and faced deportation after living in the US for over 30 years. 

Members from Greenwich Village’s Judson Memorial Church, Families for Freedom and the New Sanctuary Coalition, where Montrevil is a founder, were present in the courtroom to support him. Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, former senior minister at Judson Memorial Church and co-founder of Bricks and Mortals, along with many members, championed Montrevil’s case for years. 

In 2010, Montrevil was jailed in York, Pennsylvania, to be deported. Following his release he was taken in by Judson, where his son Jahsiah Montrevil now teaches Sunday school. 

Jean Montrevil got a hug from Jane Treuhold after he beat the deportation case against him on April 18. Photo by Sharon Woolums 

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