Historic sacred places are important community assets that play indispensable roles, serving people of all faiths and all stations. They are vibrant and productive centers of community service that benefit the public at large. They are also at risk because of their dwindling congregations and often fragile physical condition. Here are resources and case examples if you are worried about a historic sacred place in your community.
Buy some time. If the owner of a sacred places seems to be rushing toward closure or demolition, the most important thing you can do is encourage things to slow down. Sometimes it can help for a civic leader or political official to call for a pause. Or for a “friends” group or community group to come forward and offer help.
Generate information that suggests new options. It may be that the rush toward demolition is being driven by information – such as the cost of repair – that may be inaccurate or incomplete. Thus, it can be very helpful to secure the pro bono help of an architect or contractor who can provide a second opinion. Sometimes a local preservation group can provide the services of a professional, pro bono, who can provide an estimate of repair costs that is more doable, or can be staged over time.
Enlarge the group that cares. You can’t do it alone, so consider ways to get other people involved. Getting the media to broadcast this story will help (see below), using social media can help, and you may want the help of organizations that understand the value of a sacred place, such as neighborhood groups, or the local historic preservation organization.
Find a spokesperson. If you don’t want to play this role, can you think of a community leader who might be willing to serve as a convener, bringing other leaders together to think about ways to help?
Find a gift to stabilize. If the failure of a boiler or the imminent collapse of a portion of the ceiling is the immediate cause of the emergency, it may be that one gift to cover that cost – or in-kind support from a contractor – would solve the problem and, again, buy you time.
Engage the media. One action that will serve several purposes – enlarging the group that cares, unearth donors, buy time – is getting the local media interested. One good article in the paper is worth its weight in gold, so get to know your local editors and reporters to see who might get hooked on the story.
Revival at Calvary: A twenty-year partnership helps revitalize a community and save a neighborhood beacon.