January 27, 2023

5 National Fund for Sacred Places Participants Celebrate Success

Letters of Intent for the 2023 grant cycle of the National Fund for Sacred Places are due February 24, 2023. Apply today.

Since the creation of the National Fund for Sacred Places in 2016, the program has supported 97 community-serving congregations representing 24 faith traditions in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The National Fund is a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. With grant and technical assistance from the National Fund and program staff, congregations have developed long-term preservation and stewardship skills, increased fundraising capacity, and successfully forged new partnerships—building stronger connections with their local communities.

Due to this success, and the continued strong demand for grants supporting historic sacred sites, in January 2023 the Lilly Endowment Inc. renewed and expanded its financial support for the program so that by 2027, the National Fund will have awarded more than $40 million towards the preservation of community-serving historic houses of worship nationwide.

To celebrate the renewed and expanded funding, and to further highlight the success of the program, here are five National Fund projects completed in 2022.

San Xavier del Bac Mission (Tucson, Arizona)

In April 2022, San Xavier del Bac Mission once again safely welcomed parishioners and visitors to this 18th-century Spanish mission, just in time for Easter services. Patronato San Xavier, a nonsectarian nonprofit dedicated to promoting this National Historic Landmark’s maintenance and preservation, received $250,000 from the National Fund for Sacred Places in 2018, and leveraged almost $1 million in matching funds to repair and replaster the east tower which previously posed life safety risks from falling plaster.

A representative of Patronato San Xavier commented that they will “forever be grateful for [the National Fund for Sacred Places acknowledging the importance of the Mission as a cultural and heritage site of great significance, and for including us in their program.” They further thanked the program for providing a way “to increase engagement in a project that had been struggling for a number of years.”

An exterior view of a white symmetrical church with an ornate entrance. A crowd gathers in front of the structure.

photo by: Martin DeSoto

Exterior of San Xavier del Bac Mission after re-opening Easter 2022.

Central Presbyterian Church (Summit, New Jersey)

Central Presbyterian Church has operated at the center of its community, contributing to the growth of its denomination in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1870. In 2020, the church received a $250,000 grant through the National Fund for Sacred Places to complete urgent repairs to the "Christ Blessing of the Children" stained-glass window and water-damaged exterior masonry.

A look at the stained glass windows inside Central Presbyterian in New Jersey.

photo by: Betsy Philips

Restoration work underway on the "Christ Blessing of the Children" window at Central Presbyterian Church.

With training from the fund and a renewed sense of pride in the historic house of worship, congregational leaders reflected that they transformed into “video producers, church historians, public speakers, and now, church grant writing-consultants” in order to raise nearly $1.4 million in matching funds to complete this work in June 2022. The congregation plans to use these newfound skills to prepare for the long-term preservation of Central Presbyterian Church and to safely expand space sharing opportunities with local organizations.

Lovely Lane United Methodist Church (Baltimore, Maryland)

Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, the mother church of American Methodism, is located in a Romanesque Revival building designed by Stanford White. The church leveraged a $250,000 National Fund grant into over $1.5 in matching funds raised by the congregation in just 3 years. Finished in July 2022, National Fund-supported work addressed urgent exterior repairs, upgraded building systems and restrooms, and installed a handicap-accessible ramp at street level.

Representatives from the congregation commented that they have “always had a passion for our building as a historic landmark and as a vital gathering place” but can now “see the potential of the spaces through other people’s eyes.” Increasingly confident in its ability to plan towards the future, the congregation looks forward to utilizing the enhanced accessibility, comfort, and safety of the building to welcome additional community members for performances, exhibits, and other community events and meetings.

Exterior of Lovely lane UMC.

photo by: Lovely Lane United Methodist Church

Exterior of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church.

Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church (San Antonio, Texas)

Founded in 1915, Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church opened the House of Neighborly Service as a settlement house and community ministry in 1917. Over a century later, the House of Neighborly Service continues to operate as a nonprofit serving the local San Antonio community.

Exterior view of a church with a white building that has a red door. The windows are octagons.

photo by: Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Exterior of Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 pledged in 2016 supported a full rehabilitation of the building, which houses a day care for at-risk children, community food pantry, and services for the neighborhood seniors. Completed in September 2022, work involved replacing plumbing, mechanical, HVAC, and electrical systems and renovating the community kitchen.

In part because of the skills gained through participating in the National Fund program, Divine Redeemer and the House of Neighborly Service received a $1 million grant from the Methodist Healthcare Ministries to provide safe, secure, supportive housing for seniors in the neighborhood to age in place.

Trinity Episcopal Church of Abbeville (Abbeville, South Carolina)

A detail view of the steeple of brown stone church where a crane is putting in steel beams for stabilization. There are two construction workers, one on the crane and one in the steeple guiding the beam in.

photo by: Preservation South Carolina

Steeple stabilization work at Trinity Episcopal Church of Abbeville.

Trinity Episcopal Church of Abbeville, a landmark in rural South Carolina, garnered the necessary support to stabilize both the steeple and the congregation with the help of a $215,000 National Fund grant pledged in 2019. To replace severely deteriorated timbers, Trinity detached and reattached the steeple to the building. This work wrapped up in the summer of 2022 with support—both political and monetary—totaling nearly $500,000 from leading citizens. The work also brought substantial local news coverage and increased recognition in the town.

According to Michael Bedenbaugh, past president of Preservation South Carolina, the project “led to more engagement with the church and the congregation, gaining them more new members than they have had come forward in the past two decades.” The revitalized congregation has resumed holding worship services and community events in this building for the first time since 2017 now that the steeple no longer poses safety concerns.

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Emily Kahn is the former associate manager of the National Fund for Sacred Places at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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