Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update July 1, 2024

Real Estate and Development 

After a two-year process, Myerstown United Church of Christ in Pennsylvania will finalize the sale of its building to Evangelical Christian Baptist Church in early July. The decision to sell was driven by a significant decline in congregation numbers and led by interim pastor Rev. Bruce A. Greer. The sale was preferred over an auction due to the appealing offer from the buyer, a vibrant Ukrainian-Russian congregation in need of space. 

Vox Church purchased a 22,490-square-foot Gregorian Revival-style building in Hartford, Connecticut for $750,000. Vox Church plans to renovate the building to make it energy efficient and aims to start holding services there by early to mid-2025, with a seating capacity of 700. The church, which began services in Hartford in 2016, will also use the facility for community-focused activities such as food distribution, tutoring, and addiction recovery groups. 

A church revival: Vox Church acquires vacant building in downtown Hartford. Photo from Hartford Business Journal

In Trumbull, Connecticut, plans to purchase the vacant Grace Episcopal Church property and consider it as an alternative site for a new senior center are underway. Local residents support the purchase with specific use limitations, favoring a senior center. 

A vacant church in Evanston, Illinois was approved for purchase to develop affordable housing as part of the city’s broader housing strategy. The initiative is the first tangible outcome of the "Here to Stay" committee's efforts to help longtime residents remain in Evanston and leverage faith communities' resources for affordable housing. 

Religious Traditions 

Rabbi Benjamin Ross and Liz Alpern created the Manna program at Temple Shaaray Tefila (TST) on Manhattan's Upper East Side, making food a central part of the Jewish experience. The program, launched in fall 2023, includes food tours, culinary events, and educational programs that explore Jewish history and identity through food. 

Hindu advocacy organizations, including the Coalition for Hindus of North America (CoHNA), are supporting a New Jersey Assembly bill that would allow standalone crematories in the state, aiming to meet the spiritual needs of Hindu families. Current crematories in New Jersey are restricted to cemetery grounds making it difficult for Hindu families to perform traditional rites. The bill has passed a committee vote and will move to the full Assembly. 

This past May, Buddhists worldwide celebrated Buddha’s birthday. In Kathmandu, a devotee honored the day by touching his head to the Boudhanath Stupa. In South Korea, the highlight is the lotus lantern festival, Yeondeunghoe, featuring a parade of colorful lanterns in Seoul. In Cambodia, novice monks and elders participate in almsgiving and sacred rituals around banyan trees.

Buddhist devotees stand in a queue to light butter lamps during Buddha Jayanti in Kathmandu, Nepal, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Faith Community News

The Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York has elected the Rev. Kevin R. Johnson as its new senior pastor, succeeding the late Rev. Calvin O. Butts. Johnson. Rev. Johnson is the founder of Dare to Imagine Church in Philadelphia, and was previously an intern and assistant pastor unde rRev. Butts. Founded in 1808, Abyssinian is a historic Black church known for its political influence.

Bishop Sean Rowe has been elected as the next presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, succeeding Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Rowe is currently the bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Western New York. At 49, he will be the youngest presiding bishop in the church's history.

Sharon Kleinbaum's 32-year tenure as Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) was celebrated on June 3 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The event featured tributes from political leaders, performing arts stars, and CBST's Community Chorus. Kleinbaum was praised for her leadership in Judaism, LGBTQ rights, and human rights, starting her role during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The Tree of Life synagogue on the fifth anniversary of the attack on October 27, 2023, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff was among the speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh June 30th. The memorial will honor the victims of the mass shooting that left 11 worshippers dead and six others wounded. Most of the synagogue was demolished starting earlier this year.

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