Transformative Process Saves Churches

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

We are pilgrim church following Jesus. We dare to dream.

Bishop Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez

Jesus

Church buildings are getting a major makeover with a process deemed as revolutionary by many inside and outside of the church community.

On February 10, The Church of the Crucifixion, 807 Bainbridge Street, will host an Open House in their newly renovated space from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This church was the inspiration for the diocese's Transformation Committee,  which is working with four other churches in the diocese and has received inquiries from six others to assist them in making full and creative use of their property. 

The Transformation Committee was the brainchild of Bishop Gutierrez, who has a background in economic development. When he first arrived in the diocese in 2016, the Church of the Crucifixion was closed and ready to be sold. “I told everyone we would not sell churches, we would grow them,” said Gutiérrez, who made headlines when he reopened three churches in a five-year span in this diocese. “We dared to dream and sought a new path.” 

When it opened in 1847, The Church of the Crucifixion was the second black Episcopal church in Philadelphia, attracting singer Marian Anderson and sociologist W. E. B. DuBois. “The Church of the Crucifixion plays an important role in the Black history of the city. We knew we needed to honor its heritage while looking at how to attract current community members.”

In 2022, The Church of the Crucifixion was reopened by Gutiérrez and he installed the Rev. Yesenia Alejandro as its vicar.  “Mother Jessie,” as she is called by all who know her, turned the church into a site for worship and community service with hundreds coming through the church doors every week.

On February 10, visitors to the church will see a space re-imagined by Alejandro and the diocese to meet the needs of its community.  The church now includes space that provides food and coffee service, water fountains and newly installed bathrooms as well as a portable sound system. 

 Many of the diocese’s churches are more than 100 years old.  “The upkeep required for some of our churches takes away from spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We needed to change that.”

The process at Crucifixion was the impetus for the Transformation Committee,  comprised of experts in community leadership, real estate and business who volunteer their time to meet with churches and come up with a plan to increase income for the church while reaching further into the community.

“We are doing things differently in this diocese,” said Gutiérrez. “We are revolutionary, scandalous and creating places of belonging.”