2 Muncie churches selected as ‘Sacred Places Indiana’ sites
MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana Landmarks has selected two historic churches in the heart of Muncie as “Sacred Places Indiana” sites.
The former Main Street United Methodist Church and Grace Episcopal Church are among 19 congregations statewide that the historic preservation organization is training to raise funds — “not the traditional fish-fry model” — and to “harness their houses of worship for outreach and growth.”
Just three years ago, The Star Press reported that the average age of members of Main Street UMC, now known as The Garden at Main Street, was 82, and that attendance at Sunday services was down to 15 to 20 members.
“They were shrinking and aging rapidly,” violinist Deborah Malitz, who lives in a historic house next door to the church, said on Monday. “The (East Central) neighborhood had been concerned about that church for years. We need that anchor.”
The national non-profit group Partners for Sacred Places, based in Philadelphia, calls churches “de facto community centers” that provide meeting space for community groups, social services, educational programs, art events, and countless hours of volunteer time.
Main Street UMC, in the historic East Central Neighborhood, was saved from eternal rest by The Garden at Gethsemane, a Methodist Church on McGalliard Road.
“We adopted that church two years ago,” lead Pastor Vickie Perkins said this week. “We thought they needed us. We found out very quickly that Garden at Gethsemane needed them . They knew more about Jesus than we could ever have imagined. They are desperate for Jesus.”
Garden at Main Street provides outreach to community members who include drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and the homeless. “They’re desperate for Christ,” Perkins said. “They know who they are and they don’t have to put on airs like so many of us. Garden at Gethsemane had lost our purpose and focus. We had turned inward like many churches in Muncie.”
Attendance at Garden at Main Street on Sundays now averages 80 adults, including millenials, and 20 children.
The revitalized church’s community service includes addiction recovery programming, youth education, a cooling center in summer, a warming center in winter, and free lunches to a crowd numbering 120 to 140 every Sunday.
“It’s not our objective to feed people,” Perkins told The Star Press. “Our objective is to share the love of Jesus and feed them the bread of life.”
Garden at Main Street leaders have completed “Sacred Places” training to raise money, restore the building, recruit supporters and revitalize the neighborhood.
“We were in the training program for a whole year, a lot of Saturdays,” Perkins said. She and other leaders learned that the church is like a vessel in the community.
“The basement of the vessel can be used as a coffee shop run by people in the neighborhood, for example,” she explained. “So if the vessel is falling apart, if it’s not up to par, if there’s water in the basement, it can’t be used. It has to be a tight ship so it can float. The Garden at Main Street is in need of repairs . We need a capital campaign. Sacred Places helps you look at your vessel and get it in shape so it can be used in the community. Right now we’re not at capacity, but we’re getting there.”
Areas in need of repair include stairs and balconies in addition to the basement.
The church has applied to Sacred Places for a $5,000 grant to hire an architect to assess the church’s condition.
“It’s an incredible little jewel box of a church,” said David Frederick, director of Sacred Places Indiana, which he says “is not a grant program. It’s a building-stewardship and capacity-building training program with a small, competitive, capital-grants component to it.”
The Garden at Main Street was selected for the training because of its vision for community outreach, energetic leadership, a desire to deepen community connections, significant financial need, and openness to raising funds in new ways.
Frederick called the church “an incredible turnaround model” for others. “It’s an incredible place both architecturally as well as the story they have to tell.” Construction of the church was completed in 1912.
It is topped with a dome-shaped cupola.
Rev. Perkins calls the turnaround a “resurrection.”
“The light in the dome was turned off in 1960,” Perkins said. “It was turned back on again last year. When the light is on at night, you can see it throughout the neighborhood. It has been a place of refuge since 1912, a beacon of light and hope in that neighborhood. In 1960 we lost our vision. But Main Street once again has a light. We call it a resurrection. It’s alive. It’s amazing what God has done. Glory to God.”
Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Muncie, near McDonald’s, was among churches selected for training this year. Garden at Main Street was in last year’s group. A third group of eight to 10 churches will be chosen later.
The (Muncie) Star Press, http://tspne.ws/2stJUCG
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com