The Value of Space
How do you place a monetary value on history? Community? Transformation?
DC's religious congregations have historically been at the forefront of the most important causes of the day: the civil rights movement, care for the poor, a place of welcome for the displaced and immigrant, the feeding of the hungry and the provision of healthcare, to name just a few. The city's sacred spaces have served as a place of community for former slaves, an open door to families and individuals newly-arrived to the country and provided a surrogate family for young professionals setting off on their own for the first time. And together, congregations have transformed the city for the better.
In fact, new research from Partners for Sacred Places and the University of Pennsylvania has begun to quantify the impact of sacred spaces on their neighborhoods. The Economic Halo Effect of Historic Sacred Places reports that “the average historic sacred place in an urban environment generates over $1.7 million annually in economic impact...[and] 87% of the beneficiaries of the community programs and events housed in sacred places are not members of the religious congregation.”
The value of places of worship isn’t just to be found in the monetary worth of bricks and mortar. The historical, architectural, economic, communal and spiritual aspects of DC's churches are an important part of a shared history, even as they play an important part in the ongoing development of community and the prospering of the city and its inhabitants. Neighborhoods experience great loss when these spaces are converted to privately-owned and inaccessible buildings.
The stories of faith, perseverance and triumph that take place inside a space’s walls fundamentally shape not just the gathered congregation but the larger neighborhood, city and- many times- world. The city’s collective memory needs these buildings to remind us of the faithful service of our forefathers and foremothers in the bringing about of change for the public good; the loss of these gathering places means the loss of the tangible connection to the stories of those who have gone before us.
For over 250 years, buildings of worship have served an integral role in the good of our city. Religious communities have used these holy spaces to steadfastly live out the tenets of their faith as they love their neighbors as themselves. The continued presence of such spaces- spaces where people can gather together to love, grow and serve their community- is fundamental to the continued prospering of our city. The city needs these places to call us out to our better selves.