Counting the Social Good Being Done in Faith Buildings
Dancing with Parkinsons practicing at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts
The question of affordable office/rehearsal/programming space for not for profits throughout Ontario has been well documented. In major cities the issue is one of affordability while in rural Ontario the lack of “Third Spaces” following the closure of many schools has left rural citizens travelling ever-increasing distances to attend public gatherings.
La Monastere performs at St. Jax Anglican, photo Natalie Bull
We’re back, exploring the adaptive reuse and co-use (congregation still present) of faith buildings in Canada and the United States. Funded by the Metcalf Foundations’ Leading and Learning Fund, representatives of Artsbuild Ontario, The Toronto Arts Council, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and Faith & the Common Good finished up our journey in Montreal.
The Leading and Learning team (this time with the sub-in of the amazing Erika Hennebury) headed back out on the road in late November, this time headed for Montreal. As you might remember Toronto Arts Council, Artsbuild Ontario, Faith & the Common Good and Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre have been supported by the Metcalf Foundation to explore models for the arts and faith to cohabitate. This is the fourth blog post in the series, so please feel free to go back and have a look at what we discovered in Philadelphia and New York.
In Montreal, we started our journey with St. James United and their Executive Director (an unusual title in church land, but one that I heartily approve of) Dianne Ellison and Reverend Arlen Bonnar. The church was built in 1888 on Sainte Catherine Street and is a part of the Quartier des Spectacles. It’s a National Historic Site of Canada and sees about 40,000 tourists per year.
Our Regeneration Works: Places of Faith project works with rural and urban places of faith to create community spaces that are both viable and successful. Whether the goal is to keep the doors open or make strategic real estate decisions that serve the faith group and the community, the National Trust and Faith & the Common Good offer hope, inspiration, and solutions based on our work from across the country.
Places of faith anchor and shape our communities. Yet many congregations are facing declining attendance and insufficient funding to maintain and operate their historic buildings. These important community assets are in a period of transition across the country, and the Calgary area is no exception.
What is their future? How can they continue to contribute in a positive way to their communities?
Today I’m continuing my exploration of Faith/Arts Cohabitation with a quick tour of two great spaces in Philadelphia. In October 2017 I was there working with ArtsBuild Ontario, Faith & the Common Good and the Toronto Arts Council (funded by the Metcalf Foundation) examining a variety of working models for mutual support between arts and faith groups.
On an unseasonably warm (22 degrees!) November evening, myself and my partners from ArtsBuild Ontario and Toronto Arts Council set out on a walk across Philadelphia to Christ Church Neighborhood House. This was the first of two trips to explore the ways in which arts groups are thriving within faith buildings and often in collaboration with faith communities. First stop (with many thanks to the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation), Philadelphia, guided by Faith & the Common Good's friends and colleagues at Partners for Sacred Places, based in the United States.
Playwright Marcus Youssef, upon accepting this year’s Siminovitch Prize for playwriting, gave a speech that clarified for me why I am interested in the intersection of faith communities with the broader community. Youssef wrote about his interest in points of intersection and the space between people, spoken and unspoken. He wrote about moments of unexpected connection between people, across culture and groups and about learning from these liminal explorations and the richness that comes from these moments.
So you want to regenerate your place of worship? Begin the journey with a hard look at your own mission. That’s the message participants heard at two separate workshops hosted by Faith & the Common Good (FCG) and partners, in Peterborough (February 25, 2017) and Toronto (March 11, 2017).