Community-Serving Congregations in Vermont and Minnesota Complete Repairs with Support of the National Fund for Sacred Places

December 8, 2021

Two more community-serving congregations have completed critical repairs and upgrades thanks to the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program funded by the Lilly Endowment and managed by the Trust’s Preservation Services & Outreach Department in collaboration with Partners for Sacred Places. In November, National Trust staff completed virtual site visits with United Baptist Church of Poultney, Vermont and First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Members of both congregations reflected that the project outcomes far exceeded their expectations in terms of fundraising, impact, and outreach.

United Baptist Church of Poultney is a small, rural congregation with an enormous local impact. From the 1805 Federal church, parishioners collect school supplies for low-income families, host summer concerts and community meals, and hold civic functions such as farmers markets in collaboration with other nonprofits.

A $100,000 grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places with over $200,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation—double the required match—allowed United Baptist Church to refurbish and weatherproof the building envelope. Through replacing rotted historic woodwork, repainting the building, and sealing windows, United Baptist Church is better equipped to face harsh winter conditions. The congregation commented that National Fund-supported work has “increased community involvement and excitement in using this community building as a gathering space.”

First Covenant Church of Minneapolis was founded in 1874 as the historic center of the Swedish immigrant community and now serves as “The Healing Block” where art, social services, and social justice converge. The 1887 Romanesque Revival church serves as a venue for performing arts groups, an early childhood education center, and a nightly year-round 50-bed shelter for unsheltered people.

A $250,000 National Fund grant, combined with $600,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation, allowed First Covenant to replace an outdated and frequently broken elevator. Ruthie Maddox, a life-long congregant in her eighties who was the last person to get stuck in the old elevator, ceremonially rode the brand-new elevator to all eight stops at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in October. According to the First Covenant congregation, the new elevator is “like a heart or a lung transplant” for the entire building, facilitating full access and circulation to the whole building for the first time in the church’s history. As a result of an increase in accessible space, First Covenant Church is creating new space-sharing opportunities in the building with community partners.

The “graduations” of First Covenant Church and United Baptist Church bring the total number of National Fund for Sacred Places projects completed to twenty-nine. The National Fund continues to support capital projects at more than fifty additional congregations across the country and will begin the 2022 application cycle in January.

Now accepting nominations for the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places! Letters of Intent are due September 29, 2023.

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