May 19, 2006 |
The bell is old and heavy, its wooden supports weak and flagging. But that's only one building problem faced by historic St. Mary's Church, an 1873 neo-Gothic building on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The roof is in need of repair. The stained glass needs restoration. And the masonry is not in the best of shape. "There are holes throughout the entire facility," Alison Williams, church administrator, said with a sigh. But St. Mary's also has a plan for repairs and a great desire to preserve both its building and an ambitious cluster of community programs.
December 25, 2005 |
Perhaps it's not too much to hope that an umbrella won't be needed at Christmas Mass. Or a hard hat. Or a pew near a fire exit. Now, thanks to what its sponsors say is a unique new funding collaboration, five historic churches will receive major grants to attack building woes - woes that have forced congregations under umbrellas and into hard hats and toward fire exits. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and nonprofit Partners for Sacred Places, a service organization, have put up $250,000 each to help the Philadelphia churches meet urgent structural needs.
May 31, 2005 |
We've seen it before, but it's no less shocking - the burned-out shell of a church building on the day after a major fire. Often we are looking at the church through the ragged tracery of a broken Gothic window, but instead of the sanctuary ceiling, we see the sky beyond. The latest example of this tragedy ? First Baptist Church of Conshohocken ? reminds us again that our sacred places are beautiful but vulnerable. A fire of that magnitude challenges our assumption that a building evoking the 13th century will, of course, make it through the 21st.
May 4, 2005 |
On a changeable cloudy day last week, the Rev. Constantin-Florin Salgau finally finished a grueling repair of his church roof. A remarkable feat for a Romanian Orthodox priest faced with a building's collapsing joists, crumbling plaster, dissolving murals and a host of leaks. But this was only a way station in the ongoing struggle to save historic Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church from disintegration. Before the roof work, Salgau reconstructed Holy Trinity's cupola.
December 17, 2002 |
CHURCHES and former synagogues are an unforgettable part of my regular walks in North Philadelphia. There they stand, like the Rock in old hymns, while so much else around them crumbles. Sacred places found in a neighborhood like Strawberry Mansion make several points to all who have eyes to see. First, these buildings memorialize a time when even middling neighborhoods erected magnificent monuments to their faiths. A hundred years ago, when North Central Philadelphia was thriving, these places of worship could hold a candle to anything in Center City or Chestnut Hill.
December 3, 2000 |
Sacred art is his forte. Yet Bolton Morris is probably the best 20th-century artist in our region to have had hardly any career as an exhibitor, apart from respectful attention to individual works he was commissioned to make for sacred places. Now that this versatile artist is 80, Villanova University Art Gallery has filled the exhibition gap with a large retrospective show of Morris' work. From beginning to end, this 91-item display is more than a document of one artist's prolific underground career.
September 2, 1998
Saving the buildings that help save communities Mark Alan Hughes and Anais Loizillon (Inquirer, Aug. 26) were right to call on religious leaders to protect the contribution that Philadelphia's fragile church and synagogue buildings make to their neighborhoods. Our research has shown that congregations provide an enormous subsidy that fuels countless day-care, feeding, after-school and job-training programs all across the region. We need an ecumenical approach that encourages suburban congregations to help their inner-city brethren keep sacred places going before they suffer further disrepair and dismemberment.
August 26, 1998 |
Our region's oldest religious buildings represent an enduring connection between people divided into suburb and city, white and black, rich and poor. After two generations of suburbanization and population loss, many congregations in the city have dissolved or moved to the suburban counties. Yet the buildings endure in older neighborhoods like North Philadelphia. And, in many cases, new congregations with different denominations inherit the historic properties of earlier residents.
October 31, 1997 |
Urban religious congregations are essential providers of community services, especially for the poorest of the poor, and need broad support from corporations, foundations and even government, according to a national study released here yesterday. Urban congregations typically operate four community service programs, serve four times more people than they have members, and provide $140,000 worth of services and meeting space to their neighborhoods, the Philadelphia-based Partners for Sacred Places reported in a new study: Sacred Places at Risk.
January 30, 1994 |
Time was, raising money from a wealthy Rittenhouse Square congregation was a relatively painless task. The minister would stand in front of his parish and explain that the church needed, say, a new roof or repairs to a stained- glass window, and the money would pour in. But times have changed. As much of the city's wealth moved out to the suburbs, and as big-city problems began to cry out for attention, the churches of Philadelphia's wealthiest neighborhoods found themselves spread thin.