Houses of Worship Revitalizing Spaces
Houses of worship are expanding and revitalizing old abandoned buildings.
The Rochester Muslim Community Center in Minnesota recently outgrew its space and purchased an old bank building. The Muslim Community Center renovated the building, bringing new life into the space. This past week they had a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building, opening the space to the community.
In Plano, TX a new church building was completed at Catholic Community Of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The old building was deteriorating and was not large enough to suit the growing needs of the congregation. The new building now has a large area to meet and socialize outside of the worship space, a daily chapel that includes many artifacts from the old church, and more.
Across the ocean in the United Kingdom, a synagogue hopes to expand their building to better serve their congregation. Prestwich Beth Hamedresh, a well-attended synagogue has sub
mitted plans to combine their building with the semi-detached four-bedroom house next door. If approved, the ground floor will expand into a bigger main prayer room and entrance hall while the new first floor will be used as offices.
While these houses of worship are expanding, Washington, D.C has lost 33% of worship spaces in 2008-2023 as the population grew.
In 2022, Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Northwest D.C. sold their building to real estate developers and is planning to move out to the suburbs. A drop in membership has pushed houses of worship like Mount Bethel Baptist Church out of the District. Due to gentrification, many of the church members no longer live nearby and have moved out of the area.
While the change in demographics led to disheartening moves for these congregations, many are using this opportunity to serve their communities in other ways. The National Community Church rented the now-defunct movie theater at Union Station for gatherings and in 2014 bought the former People’s Church, restored the building, renamed it “Miracle Theater” and began hosting live events and community gatherings.
At Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, Massachusetts, shifts are happening to allow interfaith marriages. Sarah Freudenberger, who faced challenges due to her non-Jewish spouse, is now offering interfaith wedding officiation at the synagogue to Jewish people whose spouse is not Jewish. While Conservative movement traditionally barred rabbis from officiating interfaith weddings, this change is one of the ways Shirat Hayam is working toward being inclusive and welcoming in interfaith families.
Affordable Housing and Houses of Worship
In San Diego, construction has begun on the first project from the city’s "Yes in God's Backyard" (YIGBY) movement. This affordable housing project, Bethel One, will have 25 apartments for low-income seniors and veterans.
The project is being built by Bethel AME, a 136-year-old Black church whose senior pastor Rev Harvey Vaughn III connected with YIGBY nearly five years ago. YIGBY was searching for faith communities with available land for affordable housing and Bethel AME happened to own a 7,000 square foot lot. The project is set to be complete by the end of 2024.
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