This week's news and media roundup covers some of the recently relevant themes of houses of worship, their real estate, and safety. But first, Bricks and Mortals would like to honor the life and legacy of The Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, of Abyssinian Baptist Church, who passed away on Friday, October 28th. We send our deepest condolences to The Abyssinian Baptist Church and the friends and family of Rev. Dr. Butts.
The Baptist Temple Church building in Harlem, New York, which has sat vacant for years after being partially demolished in 2009, has finally been sold; a 10-story hotel will now be built on the site.
In Boston, The Archdiocese of Boston sold St. Helen’s Church to Norwell Select Board for $9 million. The group plans to build affordable housing for seniors on the site; this conversion would get Norwell closer to the state goal of having at least 10 percent of a community’s housing stock classified as affordable.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the former Bibleway Full Gospel Missionary Baptist Church property has been rebranded as the “Trap Church” by real estate developer Ron Rallis. Rallis took inspiration from the Atlanta rapper, 2-Chainz, by painting the historic church building pink and spray painting the word “Trap” on the outside, as a political statement. Residents of the community feel his stance was inappropriate and harmful to the neighborhood. The building is now listed to sell for 2.5 million.
There appears to be an air of creativity amongst developers and leaders of houses of worship in response to vacant and unused buildings. Earlier this month, Greensville News reported that Hope Church of Greensville, South Carolina is seeking to reuse a former strip club building as the site of its new church. Leaders of Hope Church see the property as a “God opportunity” and will close the deal at the end of November.
Many houses of worship in New York have been reacting to the gun ban issued by New York Gov. Hochul this summer. In response to the ban, a church in Niagara Falls has sought out a restraining order, which has now been issued by Judge John Sinatra. The temporary restraining order blocks the enforcement of a provision in the Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA). The ban was intended to keep New Yorkers safe, however, leaders of churches and synagogues feel the ban puts their congregations more at risk of harm if they are not able to defend themselves.
Outside of New York, several churches have had other safety concerns: building fires. This month several churches have been destroyed or severely damaged due to fires in the building. The First Church of the Nazarene had just survived hurricane Laura before the building caught on fire causing irreversible damage. This week the building was officially demolished. In Overton, Nevada, there was a fire in First Baptist Church's Family Life Center. Also, a raging wildfire in Wooldridge, Missouri destroyed most of the town, including The Wooldridge Baptist Church.
Fire prevention week was October 9th-15th and there are several campaigns to educate property owners on fire safety and prevention. While many churches have recovered from fire disasters, some buildings have been completely destroyed, which begs the question: what happens to the real property?
Thank you for reading, and we’ll be back next week with more updates!